THE Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Rayong this afternoon (Sep. 7) issued a new, open arrest warrant for former culture minister and Pattaya mayor Itthipol Khunpluem under malfeasance charges stemming from approval of a condominium project in Pattaya over a decade ago, Naewna newspaper said.
This non-expiry arrest warrant also applies to four other defendants in this case, namely Mr.Pichet Uthaiwattananont, Mr. Witthaya Sirinworachai, Mr. Yatipong Intarat and Mr. Ekapong Boonchai.
They have all been charged with malfeasance under Section 157 of the Criminal Code over the issuing of a building permit to Bali Hai Co., Ltd. for the construction of Waterford Suites & Residences condominium at the foot of Pratumnak Hill, Pattaya City, on Sep. 10, 2008.
Offences under this section of the Criminal Code have a statute of limitation of 15 years and this case was reaching that point on Sunday Sep. 10. 2023. The maximum penalty is one to 10 years’ imprisonment.
However Pol. Maj. Gen. Chomchawin Punathananon, acting commander for Chonburi, said yesterday that Itthipol had already fled Thailand, having flown to Phnom Penh by Cambodia Airlines at 10 a.m. on Aug. 30 with the airplane departing from Suvarnabhumi Airport.
This court noted that in issuing the new, open arrest warrant it had considered Section 7 of the Anti-Corruption Act B.E. 2561 that states should the accused escape during prosecution or during court proceedings the period he/she is missing is not counted towards expiry of the statute of limitations and Section 13 of the Procedures for Corruption and Malfeasance Cases Act B.E. 2559.
However as this step has been taken by a court of first instance the defendants have the right to move against the non-expiry arrest warrant at the Appeal and Supreme courts.
The new warrant was issued after Mr. Kumnueng Wongtaweesup, director-general of the Public Prosecutor’s Office for the Corruption Suppression in Region 2, had sent an urgent letter to the National Anti-Corruption Commission to move on this matter.
Top: Police searching former culture minister and Pattaya mayor Itthipol Khunpluem’s (inset) house in Chonburi yesterday, Sep. 6, 2023.
Front Page: A recent image of Itthipol Khunpluem. Both photos: Thai Rath