Rice pledge probe lists 302 suspects

Rice pledge probe lists 302 suspects

The Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has sent a list of 302 people allegedly associated with the rice-pledging scandal during the Yingluck Shinawatra administration to responsible agencies to pursue disciplinary and criminal actions against them.

PACC secretary-general Prayong Preeyachitt said yesterday the agency’s investigation into 986 cases linked with the offence has made 50% headway. The probe was carried out by the PACC’s inquiry subcommittee looking into criminal offences allegedly committed by operational officers dealing with the rice-pledging scheme, he said.

Of the list, 158 are officials attached to the Marketing Organisation for Farmers and the Public Warehouse Organisation, while the rest are from the private sector, most of whom are warehouse owners and rice surveyors, according to Mr Prayong.

He said he signed an order on Thursday to forward the list to superiors of the responsible agencies to press ahead with any legal action against them.

“Some of the officials were the superiors tasked with taking care of the inventory,” said Mr Prayong, adding some were found to have committed offences of up to 40 counts as they were in charge of various warehouses.

The list was also forwarded to the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) to trace these alleged offenders’ money trail, he said.

An investigation, he said, will widen to high-ranking officials believed to be involved in the scheme to determine whether they were connected with the offences.

According to Mr Prayong, if there are no extra elements to be examined, the probe into the cases is likely to conclude in June.

No civil lawsuits have been filed to alleged offenders yet, pending the Amlo’s examination of their money trail, the PACC chief noted.

The government is demanding 178 billion baht in compensation for losses accumulated by Ms Yingluck’s rice-pledging scheme for the 2012-2014 crops.

The ex-prime minister has been ordered to pay 20% of the sum, or 35.7 billion baht.

The military government blames her for not stopping the scheme once it was found to be plagued with losses and corruption, despite being advised repeatedly to do so.

The government has also said it would order other government officials involved and business operators to pay the remaining 80%, totalling 142 billion baht.

The Yingluck government’s pledged price was set at 40-50% higher than the market price in the hope that hoarding rice in massive stockpiles would push up global prices, but the scheme backfired.

In September, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued a Section 44 order of the 2014 interim constitution authorising the Legal Execution Department to seize the assets of state officials found liable for civil damages based in rice programme losses.