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New Thai Airways inquiry to get major new evidence

Extra information concerning alleged irregularities inside Thai Airways International (THAI) will be given to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on Dec 14.

The information will be provided by a panel headed by Pol Gen Chanthep Sesavej, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, to examine factors that played a major part in landing the airline deep in debt.

The panel,set up by the Transport Ministry, has been divided into six sub-panels to look into various aspects of the alleged irregularities.

Pol Lt Gen Sarote Nimcharoen, the panel’s deputy head, said it had submitted its findings to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Finance Ministry and the NACC.

The NACC then replied asking for additional information, Pol Lt Gen Sarote said, so the panel will duly testify before the anti-graft agency tomorrow week.

The additional information will cover details of alleged irregularities, plus the names and positions of those involved. Pol Lt Gen Sarote said the NACC would also ask whether the panel ever took the case to the Criminal Court or filed complaints to other state agencies.

Khomkrit Wongsomboon, head of a sub-panel under the investigation team, submitted its findings to the Finance Ministry on Sept 1.

According to Mr Khomkrit, alleged major irregularities were found in various items, including air ticket sales, overtime payments to technicians and the purchase of Airbus A340 planes in 2003-2004.

THAI lost its status as a state-owned enterprise when the Finance Ministry reduced its stake in the airline to below 50%. The airline finally sought help after haemorrhaging money for years.

The Central Bankruptcy Court approved a recovery plan this year after the coronavirus pandemic grounded most of its fleet, adding to its woes. The airline is in debt to the tune of 332 billion baht, according to figures posted on the Stock Exchange of Thailand website.

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