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AOT to file criminal charges over deal

BackJun 08, 2007

Officials of agency and King Power face probe

Saprang: Need to improve eficiency Pratin: Set to conclude probe soon

Airports of Thailand (AoT) will file criminal charges against its officials and officials of King Power International Group over the controversial international airports commercial deals.

The AoT board yesterday agreed to set up a team comprising airport agency officials and prosecutors to gather evidence to be used in filing criminal charges against its officials and King Power officials, AoT spokesman Chirmsak Pinthong said after the meeting.

The 13-member board, led by chairman Saprang Kalayanamitr, wanted to see the criminal charges cases reach a conclusion during Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont's tenure, the spokesman added.

Pratin Santipraphob, an AoT board member, is the lead investigator of AoT in collecting evidence. The former police chief will conclude his investigation and table the results to the board within weeks, an airport agency source said.

The investigation's scope is to take legal action against AoT and King Power officials involved in contracts the agency awarded to the firm to run duty free shops at Suvarnabhumi, Phuket and Hat Yai airports.

King Power was given the right to run duty free shops at the three airports and in commercial areas at Suvarnabhumi.

At the centre of the controversy is how the airport agency allowed King Power to run the business despite the fact that the board believed the firm intentionally designed the contracts to avoid the need for scrutiny under the Public-Private Joint Venture Act.

The act, in place since 1992, requires any contract worth more than a billion baht to be approved by a panel of representatives from various government agencies.

King Power's deals were worth less than one billion baht and thus it was up to AoT to decide whether to endorse them.

The AoT board cited King Power's intention to avoid the act in its decision to nullify the contracts.

Yesterday's move by AoT came after King Power went to the Civil Court on Monday to demand 69 billion baht plus interest in damages, as a result of the nullification of the contracts.

Mr Chirmsak challenged King Power over the court battle, saying AoT had given the company an opportunity to negotiate but it had ignored this option.

''AoT sent the letter notifying it of the nullification of the contract and waited for negotiations with King Power. But King Power decided not to talk,'' the former senator said.

Mr Chirmsak clarified Gen Saprang's remark on Wednesday that he was willing to talk. The board spokesman said any talks would not change AoT's position, which considered the King Power contracts illegal.

Gen Saprang, who is also the assistant army chief and deputy secretary-general of the Council for National Security, denied any attempt to change members of the board.

But he said there was a need to improve the board's working efficiency. The plan will be implemented after the inclusion of police chief Seripisuth Temiyavej as a new board member, he added.


Source: Bangkok Post by Amornrat Mahitthirook
Friday June 08, 2007