US bribery case under scrutiny

Pongdech Vanichkittikul, secretary-general of the Office of the Judiciary (OJ) said on Friday he will ask to observe a jury trial in Texas concerning bribery allegations in a tax dispute involving Toyota Motor Thailand (TMT).

The case is still under investigation by a grand jury in the US and has yet to be brought to court, he said.

And because a number of current and former Thai judicial officials were accused in media reports of taking bribes, the OJ is now closely monitoring the case after setting up a fact-finding panel to look into the matter, he said.

On Monday, Supreme Court president Methinee Chalothorn appointed the panel of four Supreme and Appeal Court judges to examine the case.

The panel is expected to take one or two months before announcing its findings, he said.

Mr Pongdech said he will also head up a working group to follow up on the case and several parties involved have already been asked to provide more information.

Among them are the legal advisory firm of Toyota Motor North America, the US  Department of Justice, the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Department of State.

Journalists covering the case in the US have also been emailed questions about what they know and who their sources are, he added.

The Supreme Court of Thailand has yet to begin hearing the tax dispute case, as it is still waiting for a statement from the Revenue Department, the defendant in the case brought by Toyota Motor Thailand.

The dispute relates to the tax treatment of imported parts used to assemble Toyota Prius cars, and 10 billion baht in tariffs and taxes.

The Central Tax Court had initially ruled in favour of TMT, revoking an order requiring the company to pay additional tariffs and taxes. The Court of Apeal then reversed the ruling, leading TMT to take the case to the Supreme Court.

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