Former Bangkok Governor Dr. Phichit Rattakul has been acquitted by the Supreme Court of malfeasance in office in connection with the over-priced procurement of land in Bangkok’s Bang Sue district for the parking of garbage and water trucks and other vehicles.

The Supreme Court’s verdict, which was read today (Thursday) by the Criminal Court, overturned the Appeals Court’s guilty verdict and five year prison sentence.

The Supreme Court, however, upheld the Appeals Court’s verdict against Dr. Phichit’s former secretary, Mr. Somkard Suebtrakul, and Mr. Chuan Pattanavaranon, a former Bang Sue district officer, who were sent to prison for five years and seven years respectively.

The land deal case dates back to December 4th, 1997, when City Hall, under then governor Dr. Phichit, signed a contract to purchase a plot of land in Bang Sue district to be used as a parking lot for 270 million baht, a price which was allegedly inflated by about 36 million baht above market price at the time. It was also alleged that about 18 million baht in commission was paid to city officials involved in the deal.

The land in question was also said to be a “blind” plot, which means that it is surrounded by land owned by other people and has no direct access to public roads.

Originally, eight city officials, including D. Phichit, were charged by the public prosecutor.  The other five officials were then Deputy Bangkok Governor Yarndet Thongsima, former advisor to the governor, Mr. Mahin Tanbooonperm, then city permanent secretary, Prasert Samalabha, former financial director Somkuan Ravirat and Mrs. Arunphan Kaewmarin, former financial system director.

The Criminal Court found Mr. Somkard and Mr. Chuan guilty and sentenced them to eight years and ten years in prison respectively. The rest were acquitted.

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