BANGKOK — One year after the deputy junta leader became engulfed in scandal over his collection of expensive watches, the National Anti-Corruption Commission on Thursday said it had cleared him of any wrongdoing.
By a vote of 5 to 3, the commission ruled during the year-end holidays that Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also deputy premier, had no intention to conceal the timepieces worth tens of millions of baht that he did no list in mandatory assets disclosures.
The commission said it found that Prawit borrowed the watches from “old school friends” including a telecom tycoon named Pattawat Suksriwong. The majority ruled nothing illegal had occurred.
Noting that it’s “normal” for Pattawat to “take care of his friends,” the commission noted that 21 of the watches are now in his possession, though Pattawat has no record of having purchased them. In fact, it found most of the watches had no record of being purchased in Thailand.
The commission could find no records for one watch – No. 22 – and said a costly diamond ring also being reviewed was actually owned by Prawit’s mother.
The commission’s investigation was faulted from the start by good-government advocates for being headed by officials with close relationships to Prawit.
The scandal erupted one year ago when he was spotted wearing a 3-million-baht Richard Mille watch for a government photo shoot. Subsequent searches by online amateur sleuths turned up dozens of similar watches made by the likes of Patek Philippe and Rolex.
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