Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thai officials aim for prosecution in film fest scandal

Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission has formally ruled that former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas Siriwan committed criminal acts in connection with the Bangkok International Film Festival bribery scandal, and they have forwarded the case to prosecutors, according to news reports today.

The Bangkok Post, Film Business Asia and MCOT have stories.

The NACC, which had unsuccessfully sought Juthamas' testimony, says the ex-governor and her daughter Jittisopa took $1.8 million in bribes as kickbacks for the awarding of $13.5 million worth of contracts to manage the Bangkok International Film Festival and other TAT projects to Hollywood producer couple Gerald and Patricia Green.

The Greens, whose Los Angeles-based Film Festival Management ran the Bangkok International Film Festival from 2004 to 2006, were subsequently arrested in the U.S. and charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They were found guilty and sentenced last year to six months in prison.

According to the FCPA Blog, the Greens were released in June to six months of home detention. In addition to the prison term and home detention, the Greens have faced property forfeiture.

The FCPA Blog lists the Greens' case among the "worst FCPA prosecutions ever".

The U.S. Justice Department sought much-stiffer sentences against the Greens. Appeals against the six-month sentence are in the legal works.

Juthamas and her daughter also face charges in the U.S., and they have hired lawyers who are working to get the case dismissed, according to the Wall Street Journal's Corruption Currents blog. A hearing on that is set for October 20.

After Juthamas stepped aside as TAT governor in late 2006, the Bangkok International Film Festival continued to be run by the TAT. From 2008, the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand assisted in the management of the fest.

However, last year's edition was canceled in the aftermath of the red-shirt political protests, and I've heard no word of the BKKIFF re-emerging this year.

Update: U.S. Justice officials have dropped their appeal against the Greens' prison sentence.

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