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Officers linked to loan graft of B30m

Officers linked to loan graft of B30m

Builders of the army’s housing loan projects have complained to the Defence Ministry over alleged corruption in the force’s internal loan system, which is believed to implicate at least 20 military officers.

The damage from the alleged graft is estimated at 30-40 million baht, according to Paisarn Ruangrit, the lawyer who took a group of builders to the ministry to lodge the complaint on Wednesday.

He said the complaint was submitted to the ministry which supervises the army.

Despite a prior investigation having found some military officers to be involved in the alleged graft, the officers were promoted to higher ranks and positions, according to the lawyer.

At least one senior army officer, believed to be attached to the army’s welfare department, had swindled some of the loan money, by claiming the recipients had to pay a 5% welfare fee and a further unspecified amount called a “loose change” fee. The fees were confirmed by the army to be illegal, Mr Paisarn said.

The soldiers who obtained the loans were taken aback by the fee deductions, Mr Paisarn said. They had mistakenly thought the fees were collected by the builders who insisted they had nothing to do with the apparent malpractice.

The builders learned about the alleged graft in the lending under the army’s welfare programme. That knowledge may have put them in danger, so two of the builders went to the Justice Ministry to request protection.

Mr Paisarn on Wednesday said the army’s housing loan scheme was scrapped last year although the illegal fees were still being charged until recently.

The fees, which were allegedly pocketed by some senior officers, amounted to millions of baht. The army must offer compensation and provide a clear explanation as to how it intends to make the payouts to hundreds of loan recipients who were charged the illegal fees, he said.

Mr Paisarn said the army has failed to provide any explanation about the compensation issue and so he felt he had to take the matter to the Defence Ministry. The lawyer said some 20 army officers are connected to the alleged graft as their names came up in the money trail back to the illegal loan fees. A few have retired or resigned from the force.

The damaged parties will file a police complaint against wrongdoers as the army officers had clearly abused their power by soliciting the illegal fees, Mr Paisarn said.

The lawyer added an officer based in Nakhon Ratchasima said he obtained the loan and paid the illegal fees and has started paying down the mortgage.

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