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Narongchai cleared over GF loans

September 4, 2001

Well-known economist Na-rongchai Akra-sanee has been cleared over allegations that he and five other executives of the now-defunct General Finance & Securities Plc (GF) were involved in making irregular loans amounting to Bt338 million in 1997.

Last Wednesday, Akhabut Krairiskh, a senior legal officer of the Bank of Thailand, sent a circular to finance companies and commercial banks asking them to release any assets belonging to Narongchai back to him. Akhabut said in the letter that public prosecutors had decided to drop any criminal charges against Narongchai.

On August 20, 1998, the Bank of Thailand filed criminal charges against Narongchai, the first defendant, MR Suchartchan Pravit, the second defendant, Naruenart Rattanakanok, the third defendant, Thanavorn Niyom, the fourth defendant, Phutnit Kumphalam, the fifth defendant and Jamree Nonthatham, the sixth defendant - all senior executives of GF. It alleged that they were involved in making irregular loans worth Bt338 million to New Technic Auto Sound and Sumet Technic, both luxury-car importers, between January 8, 1995 and January 28, 1997.

Apart from Narongchai, the public prosecutors have also decided to drop criminal charges against Suchartchan, the second defendant, and Jamree, the sixth defendant, due to lack of evidence. They were on the board of GF at the time and approved the loans in question, as proposed by the management.

The assets of the three defendants, frozen by the banking authorities since August 20, 1998, have now been released back to them.

Narongchai said yesterday he was a victim of circumstance at the time the loans were approved. Now he has been cleared of all the legal charges, he is expected to return to the international lecture circuit, where he was previously in demand as a public speaker on international economics.

Over the past three years, Narongchai, a former commerce minister, periodically complained about the handling of his case by the authorities, which he said not only hurt his reputation but also complicated his everyday life. He could not withdraw money from his own bank accounts and his overseas travel was restricted.

Before the case was filed against him, Narongchai had been a frequent speaker at international seminars. Now in the clear, he is free to travel and resume his business operations, the flagship of which is Seranee Holding.

In another development, involving the alleged financial crimes by former executives of SITCA Finance & Securities, Akhabut of the Bank of Thailand instructed local finance companies and banks to release the assets of Suwan Sirisunthornlert, Veeravuth Saphakit and Somyos Chairatanavorakul. This came after public prosecutors found no evidence against them in another 1997 loan scandal.

However, first defendant Veera Manakhongtreecheep, former president of SITCA, is still fighting the loan-scandal case.

Thanong Khanthong



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