EARTH Thailand

PCD looks to reopen fight over Klong Dan case

Bangkok Post 16 January 2017 | Apinya Wipatayotin

Hearing granted based on 'new evidence'

The Pollution Control Department (PCD) has filed a petition with the Central Administrative Court, asking it to reconsider the corruption-riddled Klong Dan wastewater treatment plant case, saying it has "new evidence" with which to reopen the legal fight.

Pittaya Pramotepeerapan, director of PCD's legal division, said the department recently petitioned the court to ask for the case to be reconsidered, citing a ruling of the Criminal Court which handed down jail sentences to officials from three departments for their involvement in the Klong Dan project.

In 2014 the Supreme Administrative Court ordered the PCD to pay 9.8 billion baht to NVPSKG consortium for unlawful termination of its contract to build the facility in Klong Dan, Samut Prakan, when the project was nearly finished. The department scrapped the contract after the project became mired in irregularities including illegal land acquisition.

In December 2015, the Criminal Court sentenced three senior PCD officers to 20 years in prison for malfeasance and dereliction of duty in connection with a corrupt deal to buy land for the project.

They are Pakit Kiravanich, the former director-general of the department, his deputy Sirithan Pairoj-Boriboon, and Yuwaree Inna, an official in charge of the project.

The PCD had paid the first tranche of 3.2 billion baht and US$21.7 million (759.25 million baht) to the consortium following the Administrative Court's ruling but the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) stepped in and froze the payment of the second and third tranches totalling 5.8 billion baht, saying three senior PCD officials, who were last year sentenced to 20 years in prison for malfeasance and dereliction of duty in the case, were linked to the consortium. It cited the Criminal Court's ruling.

Amlo said the court ruled the trio were linked to the consortium, adding they planned and helped the consortium become a PCD contractor to build the 23.7-billion-baht Klong Dan waste water treatment facility.

"The court's ruling is the 'new' evidence which has never been mentioned in the department's legal case before. The verdict can add weight to our claim as to why the contract with the consortium should be nullified," Mr Pittaya said.

He added the Central Administrative Court has accepted the case for a hearing. If the court ruled in favour of the department, the NVPSKG consortium would have to return the 19 billion baht which the department spent on the contract.

PCD director-general Jatuporn Buruspat said the urgent issue concerning Klong Dan is how to make use of the facility which is almost completed. He said the department would take about five months to make a decision on the issue.

"The court case and the plan to utilise the facility are different cases. We will go ahead the plan in parallel with fighting the court case," he said.

The department has completed a study of possible choices on how to use the facility. An initial conclusion is that part of the facility will be used for the treatment of waste water from Klong Dan and nearby communities and the rest area of the site will be developed as a green area for people in communities.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office-Holders in 2008 sentenced former interior minister Vatana Asavahame to 10 years in jail for malfeasance and corruption concerning land purchases for the project.