Thailand probes ‘massive port authority scam’
Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) discovered graft scam involving 560 employees including many high-ranking officials of the Port Authority of Thailand (PAT) and cost between US$9 million and US$12 million.
The DSI forwarded the matter to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on Friday for further action, according to the chief investigator, Pinit Tungsakul, who is also director of the DSI's Bureau of Intellectual Property Crime.
Pinit said the DSI's investigation into the alleged scandal began in 2014 following complaints from unnamed PAT officials, adding that it took the investigators a long time to investigate because the scam was complex, involving as many as 560 alleged wrongdoers and more than 420,000 pages of documents. He added that all of those documents had been submitted to the NACC as evidence.
It was found that many PAT employees had claimed overtime payments without actually working, according to the head investigator. The employees' requests for overtime were approved by supervisors without proper examination, he added.
The scam had cost the state enterprise between Bt300 million (US$9 million) and Bt400 million (US$12 million) a year, according to Pinit.
"We believe that this kind of irregularity has taken place for a very long time. We can't tell how long," he said.
The DSI director added that many PAT employees had even taken fraudulent overtime-pay requests to court when suing the state enterprise for compensation.
"Between 2002 and 2012, as many as 1,200 PAT officials petitioned the Labour Court for compensation of Bt3.3 billion in total. Some of them got the money, but others did not because the court was not convinced by their cases. Some plaintiffs claimed they worked as much as 22 hours a day," Pinit said.
He also said that the alleged scam involved "almost all departments" of the PAT. At least 10 director-level officials were found to be involved and they were identified in the DSI investigation report submitted to the NACC, he added.