BANGKOK — A man who once helmed Thailand’s top law enforcement agency was found guilty of libeling conservative firebrand Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday and sent to jail.
For accusing Suthep of corruption in a multi-billion government project, the Supreme Court sentenced Tharit Pengdit, former chief of the Department of Special Investigation, to a year in jail. He was taken to prison immediately after the verdict was read.
Today’s verdict overturned lower-court rulings acquitting Tharit of the charge.
As director of the DSI in 2013, Tharit said Suthep, in his capacity as deputy prime minister, had abused his office and steered lucrative contracts to private contractors when he ordered 396 police stations built nationwide three years earlier.
Suthep was a former senior member of the Democrat Party who announced he was retiring from politics in 2014 after leading anti-government street protests that precipitated the coup in May that year. He has since attempted a comeback as the de facto leader of the pro-establishment Action Coalition for Thailand Party.
The 2010 construction project budgeted for 6 billion baht was later abandoned over contract disputes.
Suthep denied the accusations of graft and filed libel charges against Tharit and the Matichon Group for reporting Tharit’s remarks. The latter was was acquitted this past March. Matichon Group owns Khaosod English.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission said in August that it is still looking into allegations of corruption against Suthep over the project.