US Seeks Thai Cooperation on Corruption Cases

The 3 March 2012 edition of the Bangkok Post reports that U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenny asked the “National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate corruption cases” that concern the U.S.  There are several curious aspects of the article.

First, the article specifically refers to the conviction of Gerald and Patricia Green on US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) charges, and then, in the context of that same discussion, mentions that there are three other cases: “The NACC is also investigating three more suspected corruption cases in which US officials allegedly committed a crime in Thailand and were linked with Thai officials, said Mr Klanarong.” (Emphasis added.)

The reference to “US officials” is curious, and we are wondering if that was a mistake or misinterpretation. The FCPA criminalizes bribery of foreign officials by private US individuals and companies, and there has been a marked increase in FCPA investigations and prosecutions, as reported here.  Although corruption by US officials is certainly criminalized under US law, it sounds as though the discussion was actually about the dramatic increase in FCPA cases and investigations worldwide involving private companies and individuals rather than corrupt US officials. 

Second, on the FCPA case involving the Greens, the article says:  

Mr Klanarong [NACC spokesperson] said he told Ms Kenney that Thai authorities were contacting their US counterparts regarding the bribe money, which was seized by US authorities.

Thai authorities want the US to hand over the money to Thailand as evidence in the investigation, said Mr Klanarong.  (Emphasis added.)

Thai authorities presumably want evidence that bribes were paid rather than "the money" itself.  The US, of course, has no control over any money allegedly paid to any foreign officials as a bribe.  And the Greens appear to be broke having filed papers claiming pauper status (after presumably spending a small fortune in their unsuccessful attempt to defend themselves against FCPA charges in the US).  Irrespective of their financial status, the U.S., of course, will not actually have the cash that was paid or received in a bribery case.  Moreover, any cash actually recovered in this case would have limited, if any, evidentiary value. 

Third, the specific reference to "three" other cases is also curious, unless the targets know they are the subject of an investigation and are cooperating with the Department of Justice (DOJ).  This is not unusual when a U.S. parent corporation learns that employees of a local subsidiary or branch have engaged in conduct that may violate the FCPA.  The U.S. parent often discloses the matter to the DOJ to reduce the penalties associated with a FCPA violation.  As mentioned here, the average fine to settle an FCPA case in 2010 was US$78 million, and the U.S. now has a bounty program for whistle blowers in FCPA cases.  

One point that has not received much attention in the local press is that the ex-TAT Governor, Ms. Juthamas Siriwan, and her daughter, Jittisopa Siriwan, were not only indicted in the US on money laundering related charges in connection with the Green case, but have been involved in a protracted and presumably very expensive legal battle with US prosecutors to dismiss the U.S. indictment against them.  Several reports on those proceedings can be found in the achieves section of Anti-Corruption section of the Knowledge part of our website here

As and when further developments in that case become available, we will report on them here on this site.