BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States has arrested a California-based movie executive and his wife on suspicion of paying $1.7 million in bribes to a senior Thai official to secure lucrative contracts to run a film festival in Bangkok.
In a statement on the PR Newswire, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said Gerald Green, 75, and Patricia Green, 52, had made a series of payments from 2003 to 2007 to the then governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Juthamas Siriwan.
Juthamas, who is running for parliament in a minor party in a December 23 election, denied receiving any irregular payments or, as prosecutors allege, shunting TAT contracts worth more than $10 million towards a company set up by the Greens.
“I don’t know about that at all. I have no knowledge about this,” she told Reuters. She confirmed that during her time as governor, the Greens had worked for the TAT, which oversaw the staging of the Bangkok International Film Festival.
U.S. investigators looking into possible breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act caused a major stink in Thailand in 2005 after alleging a U.S. firm may have paid kickbacks to secure a contract for high-tech bomb scanners for Bangkok’s new airport.
Although nothing was ever proven, opponents of then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra seized upon the scandal as evidence of a graft-ridden administration.
Thaksin was ousted in a September 2006 coup, accused of presiding over “rampant corruption”.
National Counter-Corruption Commission spokesman Klanarong Chantik said Thai investigators had been made aware of the case only on Wednesday and so had yet to decide whether to launch a full probe.
The DoJ said the Greens had tried to hide their bribery by using different businesses, some with dummy addresses and telephone numbers, and “commission” payments had been made through the foreign bank accounts of intermediaries.
“More than $1.7 million in payments were allegedly made for the benefit of the governor,” the DoJ said.
Reporting by Ed Cropley, editing by Michael Battye and Roger Crabb