Ex-DSI Chief Calls Asset Freezing a Political Attack

File photo of former chief of the Division of Special Investigation (DSI) Tharit Pengdith.

BANGKOK — Former chief of the Division of Special Investigation (DSI) Tharit Pengdith has accused Thailand’s national anti-graft agency of participating in an effort to smear his reputation.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is investigating Tharit for potentially corrupt practices during his tenure as head of the DSI, and announced yesterday that 40,954,720.58 baht worth of his assets have been frozen.

The NACC said the freeze will be lifted if Tharit is determined to be innocent. The former DSI chief was also ordered to declare the financial assets of his family to the NACC in 30 days. 

"I believe this action by the NACC is a part of the movement to discredit me," Tharit told Khaosod. "I have always been one of their top targets." 

Tharit told Khaosod he has been a frequent victim of political attacks because of his oversight of major legal cases such as the investigation into the deadly military crackdown on Redshirt protests in 2010, and lawsuits against leaders of the anti-government protests that preceded the May 2014 coup d'etat. 

"As the director of the DSI, I was responsible for many important cases against political groups, such as the attempt to obstruct the election," Tharit said, referring to the anti-government protests' effort to block the 2 February 2014 national poll. "These people are influential people of Thailand. After I left my post, these people have taken legal actions against me in every way. They sued me in the Criminal Court for 30 cases, and the court has already acquitted 19 of them. They also complained to the NACC. They complained to the Ministry of Justice. And they used many other methods."

Tharit, who became director of the DSI in 2009, was ousted from his position several days after the military overthrew an elected government in May 2014. Anti-government protesters accused Tharit of being an instrument of the Redshirt movement, which supported the government toppled in the coup.  

The NACC said it launched the investigation into Tharit's assets because the former DSI chief was seen as "unusually wealthy," NACC sec-gen Sansern Poljiak said yesterday.

Tharit vowed to fight the accusation. "Eventually, these discredit attempts and this bullying has to be ruled by the court of justice," Tharit said. "Including the issues of NACC's freezing of my assets. Everything has to be in accordance with the system of court of justice. I am willing to fight every case against me to the Supreme Court. I am confident that I will be granted fairness." 

Since the May 2014 coup, the NACC has pursued legal cases against members of the former government, including former PM Yingluck Shinawatra, who was retrospectively impeached in January on charges of negligence. As a result of the impeachment, Yingluck has been banned from politics for five years. 

The NACC has also charged former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, with "abuse of power" for authorizing the military crackdown on Redshirts in 2010. If their case is passed on to the junta's interim legislature, the pair could also be banned from political office for five years.

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