Thursday, November 29, 2012

Warong: probe required money, help from many who fear project's impacts
Democrat MP Warong Dechgitvigrom has earned much praise for his expose of alleged fraud in the government’s controversial rice price-pledging project. But to gain the valuable information, he had to invest a lot of time and money, and rely on experts in various fields to get the job done.

"It's extremely difficult. It's very tiring work," he said.

He refused to disclose how much he had spent, but said that every step of the investigation required money. "But it's worth it," he said.

The Opposition MP said that his "top secret" investigation began in October following news that the government was preparing to sell rice bought under the project in deals with foreign countries.

Warong had to mingle with farmers to learn about the rice trade, including how to measure the moisture of rice paddies.

The MP from Phitsanulok said he sent his trusted men to work in disguise at some rice mills suspected of involvement in the fraud. They were equipped with "button cameras" used by private investigators.

"Pictures tell the story better than letters. My men took much risk doing this," he said.

During the censure debate earlier this week, Warong said Thailand's government-to-government rice deal with China was invented to benefit certain companies. He established a link between the rice scheme and massive money laundering by producing evidence of a dummy company, individuals and old ghosts like President Agri Trading and Siam Indica, who could be found involved in non-existent rice deals.

The Democrat said he got help from some local informers who tipped him off by phone when there were suspicious movements - such as trucks full of rice paddies from Cambodia crossing the border into Sa Kaew. His men carefully recorded the arrival of the cargo to prove that foreign paddies were finding their way illegally into the rice project.

When meeting local informers, his men had to use the correct code to make sure they were actually sent by him.

"I also went to the targeted areas to gather information myself. Many people gave me information because they don't want this project to bankrupt our country. Those people are rice-mill owners, local residents, rice traders, and people in the rice industry," he said.

"We also got a lot of useful information from good bureaucrats," he added.

The MP sleuth said he also had to rely on the Google search engine when he wanted to know about some names involved. He had to hire private investigators and ask for favour from his police friends to get more background about the key players. This way, he could establish alleged connections between a player and Pheu Thai MP Rapeephan Phongruangrong, who is the wife of red-shirt leader Arisman.

A tough question to crack involved bank codes on a cashier's cheque, a copy of which was obtained during their investigation. The cheque for Bt500 million was used by Warong to prove that a Thai company, and not the Chinese government, had bought the rice. He said he had to rely on a team of bank workers to crack the codes.


Translate This Page

    Unordered List