The Office of The Attorney General of Thailand and the head of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) have announced the indictment of the former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Juthamas Siriwan, over allegations that she accepted bribes in connection with the Bangkok Film Festival.
On 13 November, Vichai Vivitsevi, of the NACC, and co-chairman of the joint panel comprised of members of the NACC and the Attorney General’s office, announced that evidence had been collected that showed Siriwan had committed criminal offences as a former state official. The joint panel has spent almost three years tracing the payment of the funds that were allegedly paid to Siriwan to banks in Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and the US.
The long-running case arose over allegations of bribes paid to Siriwan, who was the governor of the TAT between 2002 and 2006. TAT was the government agency responsible for organising the festival, and it has been alleged that Siriwan and her daughter received US$ 1.8 million from US filmmakers Gerald Green and his wife Patricia Green. These payments were allegedly in return for contracts valued in excess of US$ 13.5 million to organise and run the Bangkok Film Festival.
In 2009, a federal jury in Los Angeles found the Greens guilty of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and money laundering charges, and they served six-month jail terms and six months of home detention. They were also ordered to pay US $250,000 in restitution.
The 2009 indictment also charged the Siriwans with crimes, but not under the FCPA. The US government was unable to pursue the Siriwans under the FCPA because the statute applies only to individuals and entities who give (or attempt, promise or agree to give) bribes, and not to the recipients of those payments. Rather, the US authorities alleged that each wire transfer of the bribes by the Greens to the Siriwans’ bank accounts constituted a transaction designed “to promote the carrying on of” the bribes, and therefore constituted violations of US anti-money laundering statutes. Siriwan, 67, and her daughter, have never been in US custody and the case against them is still pending in federal court in Los Angeles. The indictment in Thailand means the US case would be dismissed. The next status conference in Los Angeles is scheduled for December 4, 2014.
Mr Vichai also announced that the NACC is seeking the return of the bribe money following its seizure by US authorities. This is in line with an accord between Thailand and the US on assistance in criminal cases and under the United Nations Convention against Corruption.