BANGKOK – Thailand's national anti-graft agency has frozen the financial assets of former Division of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tharit Pengdith, citing potential corruption.
Vicha Mahakhun, a spokesperson of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said in a press conference today that Tharit is suspected of using his former office to seek personal gain. Tharit is also suspected of involvement in illegal land encroachment in three forests in Nakhon Ratchasima province, Vicha said.
According to Vicha, the asset freezing is a "temporary" measure until the investigation is resolved. Tharit has been summoned to provide testimony and declare the assets of his entire family to the NACC within 30 days.
Sansern Poljiak, sec-gen of the NACC, explained that the investigation into Tharit's assets was ordered in October 2014 because the former DSI chief appeared to be "unusually wealthy."
"Mr. Tharit Pengdith has behavior that lead us to believe there has been transfer, allocation, transformation, and hiding of financial assets related to his unusually wealthy status," Sansern said. "Therefore, we have ordered a freezing of the assets of Mr. Tharit Pengdith and [his wife] Mrs. Wassamol Pengdith temporarily under Section 78 of the 1999 Organic Act on Counter Corruption."
Sansern told reporters that the assets consist of bank deposits, lands, buildings, and vehicles worth 40,954,720.58 baht. Tharit has not been charged with any crime so far, he added.
Tharit, who became director of the DSI in 2009, was ousted from his position several days after the military overthrew an elected government in a coup on 22 May 2014.
Although Tharit was initially seen as an enemy of the Redshirt movement – he was a member of the state body that oversaw a deadly crackdown on Redshirt protests in 2010 – the DSI chief's ties with Redshirt politicians later improved, especially after the Redshirt-backed Yingluck Shinawatra became Prime Minister in mid 2011.
When mass demonstrations broke out against Yingluck in November 2013, Tharit was appointed by the administration as a member of the Center for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO), an agency tasked with containing the protests. The appointment led many anti-Yingluck protesters to ridicule Tharit as a "lackey" of the Redshirts. The protesters also staged several demonstrations by the DSI headquarters to denounce Tharit.
The six-month street protests eventually culminated in the military coup that toppled the government in May 2014. Since the military takeover, the NACC has sought legal actions against members of the former administration, including retrospectively impeaching former PM Yingluck in January 2015 on charges of negligence. As a result of the impeachment, Yingluck has been banned from politics for five years.
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