The Supreme Court of Thailand, which is reviewing evidence on the case against Most Ven. Dhammajayo (Phrathepyanmahamuni), has set its sights for November 30th 2016 to make an official announcement as to whether there is enough evidence to warrant charging Ven. Dhammajayo for money laundering and colluding to embezzle money.
Instead of waiting until the end of the month, spokespersons from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) have issued an unsolicited statement that, in OAG’s view, there is sufficient evidence to indict Ven. Dhammajayo.
Media outlets throughout Thailand have interpreted this statement to mean the court has formally charged Ven. Dhammajayo, despite the OAG’s assertion that he has not yet been indicted or charged. In order to formally charge him, an arrest first needs to be made, followed by an interrogation and testimony, and then a decision will be made as to whether to press charges or to decline to press charges.
Again, Ven. Dhammajayo has not been charged despite reports to the contrary by the media.
The video below is a short excerpt (51 sec) of the press conference with the relevant statements. Source: https://youtu.be/-xMWC23lx2g Click on [CC] to view subtitles:
Below is a translation of the full 28 minute OAG press conference held on November 23, 2016. Source: MGROnline (https://www.facebook.com/astv.manager.crime/videos/800179840121994/)
Lieutenant Somneuk Siangkong, a spokesman for the Office of Attorney General, and Mr. Chatpong Jiraphan, Deputy Director General of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), makes a joint statement about the corruption cases in Klongchan Credit Union (KCUC).
Lieutenant Somneuk Siangkong, a spokesman for the Office of Attorney General:
This is a press conference with all members of the press.
Today’s press conference concerns the progress of the case against Mr. Supachai Srisupak-aksorn and associates for the crimes of money laundering and receiving stolen properties from Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC).
In addition, we will also give details of other cases related to the KCUC corruption case. The Department of Special Litigation (DSL) and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) have also received several case files from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) to further investigate.
The media and the public have been closely following the case of Mr. Supachai Srisupak-aksorn and his associates, alleged to have committed the crimes of money laundering and receiving stolen properties from KCUC.
Let me refer to this prepared statement since it contains some facts and data. I want to make sure that everyone receives accurate information.
- According to Case no. 27/2559 that DSI sent to DSL for consideration on June 13, 2016, it involves the plaintiff--Mr. Thammanoon Attichoti and associates, and the suspects they accused of laundering money. The 1st suspect is Mr. Supachai Srisupak-aksorn, the 3rd suspect is Miss Saranya Manmad, and the 4th suspect is Mrs. Tongpin Kunlong. They also accused Phrathepyanmahamuni, the 2nd suspect, and Miss Sasithorn Chokprasit, the 5th suspect, of conspiring to launder money and receiving stolen property.
- The investigation officials presented Suspects #3 and 4 together with the case files to the public prosecutor. Suspect #1 is currently serving a sentence from another case.
- The investigation officials have arrest warrants for Suspects #2 and 5 but have not arrested them yet. Therefore, the suspects have not been presented to the public prosecutor.
- After receiving the case files for this important case, a working group was formed and headed by Mr. Chatpong Jiraphan, the Director-General for DSL, to investigate this case.
- The public prosecutor and DSL, who are part of this working group, together considered the case and ordered DSI officials to further investigate additional issues.
- DSI officials sent additional files to this working group several times, the latest being on Friday, November 11, 2016.
- The working group scheduled the next hearing for Wednesday, November 30, 2016, at 9:30 AM.
- Please note that the working group, the public prosecutors, and DSL have thoroughly considered all evidence and witness testimonies, including letters requesting a fair and just process from the suspects. Therefore, yesterday on November 22, 2016, we wrote an opinion and put forward an order for Suspect #1, already sentenced in another case, and the suspects that the investigation officers already sent to the public prosecutor–Miss Saranya Manmad (3rd suspect) and Mrs. Tongpin Kunlong (4th suspect). We ordered charges to be filed against Suspects #1, 3, and 4 for the crimes of conspiring to launder money, according to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 1999 (2542 BE), Sections 4, 9, and 60.
- DSI officials have not sent the following suspects to the public prosecutors: Suspects #2 and 5, Phrathepyanmahamuni (or Phrarajbhavanavisudh), and Miss Sasithorn Chokprasit.
The statement I will be making next uses legal terms in accordance with the law.
- The public prosecutor is of the opinion that the 2nd and 5th suspects should be charged for conspiring to launder money and accepting stolen property, according to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 1999 (2542 BE), Sections 5, 9, and 60, and the Criminal Code Sections 357 and 83.
- The prosecutor informed the DSI Director of the need to bring Suspects # 2 and 5 into custody and send them to the public prosecutors for processing within the 15 year statute of limitations, which starts from the date of the offence.
What I’ve stated above is how the OAG would proceed with the case (the one being followed closely by the media), as to how the Supreme Court would determine the merit of the case.
There are a few additional points that I would like to bring to the media’s attention. The details of the case, which I just informed you of, is what OAG received from DSI.
However, DSI and AMLO have not sent the case files for several cases relevant to the KCUC corruption case to OAG. As of now, the DSL have already processed three criminal cases.
- In the first case, Mr. Supachai was sentenced to 14 years and 24 months for embezzling from KCUC. For the 2nd and 3rd cases, the details can be found in the press release.
- There are two other civil cases that AMLO sent to the public prosecutor and DSL, to consider in regards to the KCUC corruption case.
- It is the case that the AMLO sent to the public prosecutor and DSL. DSL filed a request with the court that the properties Supachai and his team embezzled from KCUC belong to two cases. The details are in the press release that you have received.
I have informed the media of all the key points. If you have any questions, Mr. Chatpong Jirphan and I will be addressing them.
Q: Will there be an effective strategy to track Phra Dhammajayo and the other suspect, because much time has passed and he still can’t be found even with an arrest warrant?
- (Chatpong) A: If I may, I would like to offer two points to the spokesperson regarding this case. Has everyone received the press release?
I would first like to make sure everyone understands the basics so the news can be written accurately, without any misunderstanding.
On the second page, there are two groups of suspects. Page 2, Items 1 & 2.
In this case, there are two groups of suspects. The first group - the investigation officials already sent to the public prosecutor. We already conducted an investigation of those suspects and processed the case according to Criminal Procedure Code Sections 141 and 142.
We can file charges against the suspects who have been sent to us: 1. Mr. Supachai, 3. Ms. Saranya, and 4. Tongpin. All three people have met with the public prosecutor, so we can file charges with the court immediately. And we’ve scheduled these three to come in on November 30th for the hearing. We will then file the charges. These are the steps for the suspects that we have met.
For the second group, we call them suspects with no body. What does this mean? It means the suspects are known, but we have not been able to bring them in. They are Phrathepyanmahamuni (2nd suspect), and Miss Sasithorn Chokprasit (5th suspect). These are the suspects that the media asked about earlier.
We know who the two individuals are but have not been able to bring them in. And according to the Criminal Procedure Code, we have to hear both sides. In a legal proceeding, we always have to listen to both sides.
Investigation officials, public prosecutors, and courts, all have to listen to both sides–the suspects who have been accused and the plaintiff.
As of now, we have to accept that we have not met Suspects # 2 Phrathepyanmahamuni and # 5 Miss Sasithorn Chokprasit for questioning. Thus, the public prosecutors only have an opinion for now.
Please note that the first and second items are written differently.
The first item says that the public prosecutors ordered the filing of charges for the 1st, 3rd, and 4th suspects.
Item 2 is just an opinion that a charge should be filed. All these are based on the Criminal Procedure Code.
An opinion that a charge should be filed - what does that mean?
It means that at this point in the investigation, we have considered the statements made by the accusers, and the evidence gathered by DSI, and Mr. Thammanoon Attichoti, the accuser.
After considering their statements, we believe there is enough evidence to file a charge. Then what?
Once the public prosecutor has offered an opinion that charges should be filed, we will order DSI officials to find the 2nd and 5th suspects, Phrathepyanmahamuni and Miss Sasithorn Chotprasit, and bring them to us within the 15 year statute of limitations, starting from the date of the offense, which is January 2009.
The investigation officials are responsible for finding these two suspects and sending them to the public prosecutors. Then, we can file charges with the court. Without the suspects physically present, we cannot file charges with the court.
Once they are brought in, they’re interrogated and permitted to testify. This is in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code.
Once they testify, we will consider any additional evidence and witnesses, and will re-evaluate our assessment to see if any adjustments should be made.
If the accusations have merit, then the OAG will confirm the charges.
If the opinion is incorrect, as a result of additional witnesses, or if new information is discovered, then the OAG may decline to press charges. However, the OAG can reconsider their opinion and resummon the case. And this is in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code.
Therefore, I want to make sure we share the same understanding that at this point, it is only an opinion that a charge should be filed, which is different from Item 1.
That means that the investigating officers are responsible for finding the suspects.
Now, I will answer your question about when the suspects will be arrested. This is the responsibility of the investigating officers. According to the law, they have the power to search, arrest, and send the suspects to the public prosecutors.
And when? We did not determine the date, and did not precipitate. We only told them to find us the suspect within the 15 year statute of limitations. If that time frame as passed, we will not be able to do anything.
Thus, it is the responsibility of the investigation officials to process this case further. This is the first point I want to make.
The second point is also important to note. The OAG summarized cases relevant to the corruption of KCUC in the press release you are now holding. In this press release, you can see that we are handling several cases, not just this one case. There are 4-5 other cases, both civil and criminal.
We have coordinated with AMLO and DSI, and on behalf of the OAG, I would like to clarify the misunderstandings regarding the reason behind the public prosecutors’ repeated investigations into this case.
We have actually conducted a re-investigation of this case only twice.
But DSI officials have been sending the investigation files piece by piece.
I want to clarify that the objective in processing this case is not only to bring the offenders to justice, but we want to protect the victims in this case.
If you’ve been following the news, you would know that the KCUC case has a tremendous impact on the system of cooperative institutions.
There are thousands of victims, with damages amounting to over 10, almost 20 billion baht. Therefore, it affects the overall economy, and the victims have suffered severely. Some victims are elderly; they invested the last amounts of their savings with the KCUC only to be betrayed.
So, what we are doing is not only bringing the offenders to justice, we are tracking and trying to return the money to the victims.
You can see that in every case, we try to follow the money trail so we can gather as much information as we possibly can regarding the actual money path so we can request the court to order the offenders or anyone who now has possession of the money to return it to the victims.
This is why we need to conduct a thorough investigation. If all we only wanted to do was bring the offenders to justice, it would not be difficult at all. If we had sufficient evidence, we only needed to file the charges. But we have another objective–to take care the victims in this case; so we need to be extremely thorough.
The cases listed on pages two and three are both civil and criminal cases. In the civil cases, we already filed charges according to the evidence gathered by AMLO. We handed the property over to the court, which becomes national property, and from there the victims can request a share of this property.
For the criminal cases, we requested that the court return the money to the victims. We have a list of the victims’ names and the monetary value that the offenders must pay back.
If the court agrees, the victims can go to court to request these funds be returned to them. So, we’re processing the case meticulously, thoroughly, and slowly, which may feel too slow for many, but we are trying to support the victims by tracing the path the money has taken and returning it to the victims. This is why we need to investigate the money trail thoroughly. There are a lot of numbers, and we cannot make any errors. So some of the things may have been slow.
But after receiving the case files from DSI on November 11th, we have been working at full capacity.
There was an order yesterday, which are outlined in the two points:
- First, please note that the wording is different for orders and opinions.
- Second, the reasons this case has taken so long to process are listed. We would like to ask the media to present accurate information, so the public can have the facts.
Q: What about the letter from the lawyer requesting fairness from OAG, claiming that the money received does not fit the definition of money-laundering. Is this part of the evidence?
- (Chatpong) A: I would like to say that in the Criminal Procedure Code, the suspect has to give the testimony himself and has to appear in front of the public prosecutor. The suspect has to be notified of the charges, and when the suspect testifies, the public prosecutor can weigh the evidence. But for now, the suspect has not yet given his testimony, but has granted power of attorney to his lawyer, whose testimony we’ve already considered.
- In the request for fairness, we will consider everything. But at this stage, the testimonies and evidence from the plaintiffs are sufficient to file a charge.
Q: This means that DSI has to first locate the suspect in order to proceed with the investigation?
- A: Correct. The steps are: Arrest and bring into custody. Interrogation. Testimonies by the suspects. And then transference of suspects to the public prosecutors.
Q: As for the victims, will they have to wait 15 years before getting their money, or can they receive it during the 15 year period?
- A: We will make the request. Once the court approves the request from the public prosecutors, the victims can go to the court [to ask that their funds be returned]. Fifteen years is the lifetime of the criminal case that we will file.
Q: That means they [the victims] do not have to wait until [the other two suspects] are in custody?
- A: The victims can use many channels. In the civil case filed by the public prosecutor, there was a request that the money be vested to the civil case (as written on page 3). The victims now can request a share of this money. This is the victim’s right according to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
- As for the criminal case where charges have been filed, we will have to wait for the court to decide, e.g., the case in Item 1.2 on page 2. We filed charges against Mr. Supachai and two other people for money laundering and public fraud.
- The public prosecutors then requested that the court order Mr. Supachai and his associates to return the 5.6 billion baht to the affected victims. We have a list of victims and their monetary damages. We will do this for every case. For every case, we try to protect victims’ rights as much as possible. However, if the victims cannot wait for the outcome of the criminal case, they can use their rights to file a civil lawsuit. The law does not prohibit that.
Are there any other questions?
Q: Based on the case files DSI sent to the public prosecutors, can you tell us the amount of money allegedly laundered by Phra Dhammajayo?
- A: You’re referring specifically to this case, right? Allow me to give everyone rounded figures because giving out specific numbers will compromise the case. There were 27 checks paid from Suspects # 1, 3, and 4 to Suspects #2 and 5–about 1.4 billion baht in total between January 2009 to April 2013.
Q: Can you tell us if this laundered money was ever used to construct anything?
- A: The specifics are in the case files, and revealing them will compromise the case, and will affect witness testimonies to be carried out by public prosecutors. Filing charges against Suspects # 1, 3, and 4 must take place at the court, with further investigation of witnesses and evidence to be carried out. If I may, I can only inform you of this much.
Let’s take two more questions.
Q: As for the two individuals, you have requested that they turned themselves within November, is that correct?
- A: The first suspect, Mr. Supachai, has been sentenced to prison, as indicated in Item 1.1 in the press release, under Case no. 74/2557. When we file charges, we will request temporary custody from the prison in order for him to appear in court. The public prosecutors will request custody. Suspects #3 and 4 have been informed of their hearing date. It is their responsibility to show up on the 30th, where the public prosecutors will file charges against them. If they fail to appear, we will issue an arrest warrant.