BANGKOK — Thai Airways on Wednesday launched an investigation over revelations that Rolls-Royce paid 665 million baht in bribes to arrange for the purchase of its aircraft engines in Thailand.
The firm admitted to bribing officials in Thailand and other nations to a British court on Tuesday in an agreement to avoid criminal prosecution. According to the confession, Rolls-Royce paid money to “individuals who were agents of the State of Thailand and employees of Thai Airways” over a period of 13 years.
“We have discussed this matter, the board agreed to instruct Thai Airways to find out information and facts about this matter as soon as possible,” airline president Charamporn Jotikasthira told reporters after a board meeting Wednesday.
He said the investigation could take 30 to 90 days. If the allegations are proven true and perpetrators identified, he said the case would be sent to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for criminal proceedings.
“Thai Airways is not being idle,” the CEO said. “We are committed to transparent procedures without any exception to any form of corruption.”
In its testimony to British authorities, Rolls-Royce said it paid bribes three times in Thailand over the course of 13 years: June 1991 to June 1992, March 1992 to March 1997 and April 2004 to February 2005. In each instance, the company’s intermediaries sought to lobby the Thai government and Thai Airways to buy engines made by Roll Royce.
On Wednesday, the auto and engine maker agreed to pay GBP671 million to settle 12 counts involving bribery in Thailand as well as Malaysia, China, India, Russia and Nigeria.
The settlement would see Rolls-Royce avoid prosecution on fraud and corruption charges. The firm has also apologized.
It’s the latest scandal to hit Thai Airways, a state enterprise long accused of corruption and nepotism. In 2015, the National Anti-Corruption Commission found four Thai Airways officials guilty of selling tickets outside the system at lower prices. In March the commission heard complaints it granted route concessions to a low-cost airline in exchange for bribes. In October, the airline charged the government 21 million baht to fly 38 officials to Hawaii for a meeting, drawing widespread criticism.
Bribery is common throughout bureaucracy and law enforcement agencies in Thailand. The kingdom scored 3.8 out of 10 on a corruption perception index compiled in 2016 by Transparency International.
Thai Airways’ Charamporn said some officials who served during the time of the alleged bribery already retired, but that it wouldn’t be a problem.
“If the wrongdoers already retired, we can still hold them accountable,” he said.