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Unusually rich ex-transport permanent secretary jailed

Unusually rich ex-transport permanent secretary jailed

BANGKOK: A former permanent secretary of the Transport Ministry found unusually rich after his house was burgled seven years ago has been sent to prison for 10 months for filing false asset declarations, after losing his appeal.

crimecorruptionpoliticspropertytransport
By Bangkok Post

Friday 19 October 2018, 10:08AM


Supoj Saplom, former permanent secretary of the Transport Ministry, arrives at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Jan 30, 2013. Photo: Bangkok Post / File

Supoj Saplom, former permanent secretary of the Transport Ministry, arrives at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Jan 30, 2013. Photo: Bangkok Post / File

Supoj Saplom, 65, was taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison yesterday (Oct 18) after a judicial appeal panel of the Supreme Court for politicians and state officials upheld an earlier court ruling.

The court ruled that as a high-ranking official, Supoj had not set an example for others when he failed to declare assets worth over B20 million.

“The fact that he committed the offence was serious. His submission that he had no prior criminal record and had served the country well was not enough to warrant a suspension,” the panel said.

In late September last year, a nine-member judicial panel found him guilty on five counts and sentenced him to two months on each count.

He was also banned from public office for five years from May 18, 2012, the day he was relieved from duty as permanent secretary at the ministry.

The offence is punishable under Section 119 of the National Anti-Corruption Commission Act.

In 2012, the NACC accused him of deliberately filing false asset declarations after finding him to be unusually rich.

The case involved unaccounted-for items – B17.5mn in cash and a Volkswagen van – totalling B20.5mn in his possession.

The magnitude of his riches was accidentally revealed in November 2011, when thieves broke into his house on Lat Phrao Soi 24 in Bangkok. They were later caught and told police they found millions of baht in cash inside the house. Supoj could not satisfactorily explain where it came from.

He argued the cash and Volkswagen were not his. He said the van belonged to Anake Jongsathien, a plastic foodwrap businessman. He returned the vehicle to Mr Anake, who later donated it to a temple.

Regarding the B17.5mn in cash, which became evidence in the burglary, Supoj said he had filed a complaint with police that only B5mn was stolen. The amount was a dowry the family received for his daughter’s hand. She was wed on the night of the robbery. He had given the money to the couple after the ceremony, so it did not need to be declared, he claimed.

The first court believed the thieves, who said they stole a lot of cash stashed in the house, not the dowry.

It also found implausible the explanation of Supoj’s wife that the van was given to her as compensation for teaching children and helping spread Buddhism. It found the time she spent doing the work was short and did not warrant the reward of a B3mn van. Besides, there was evidence when buying the vehicle Mr Anake gave money to Supoj’s wife on several occasions.

Supoj had failed to declare the two assets on five occasions – after he was made chairman of the board at the State Railway of Thailand and Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand, as well as member of Thai Airways International’s board, and when he was appointed permanent secretary of the Transport Ministry, and again one year later.

The court believed the van was Supoj’s asset under another person’s name and the temple held it only temporarily, so it should have been declared.

Supoj appealed the judgement, as allowed under the 2017 constitution. A panel of different judges of the same court handled the appeal. They ruled against him yesterday.

After the NACC found him to be unusually rich, the Civil Court ordered the seizure of B46.1mn of the assets of Supoj and his family in early 2014. Almost two years later, the Appeal Court raised the seized amount to B65mn and the Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

He is also facing a bribery charge being considered by the NACC.

Read original story here.

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