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Yesterday, one of my Facebook buddies, George from Canary Travel in Bangkok, asked me if I was going to comment on the latest regarding former Tourism Authority of Thailand Juthamas Sirawan.

I told George that I was working on something else (Guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand), but would most likely not comment since I didn’t know much about it other than the former Governor of TAT, Juthimas Sirawan allegedly received $1.8 million (or $1.7 million depending on which news article) in exchange for awarding the Bangkok International Film Festival contract to two Americans (Gerald Green and wife Patricia T. Green) that were tried, convicted, and sentenced to six months in prison under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Tourism Authority of Thailand Juthamas Siriwan courtesy of filmbiz.asia

Juthamas Siriwan courtesy of filmbiz.asia

What brought this up was an article yesterday about the former Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in the Bangkok Post, US wants Juthamas extradited, that I had seen, and dismissed as more legal mumbo-jumbo and stalling tactics by the Thai Government since this attempt at extradition has been going on for years.

US prosecutors have revealed they are struggling to extradite a former Thai official and her daughter to the US to face corruption charges.

I had to wonder why as the US and Thailand have agreements to send alleged criminals to each other and Thailand recently extradited Viktor Bout to America where he was tried and convicted. But, then again, Viktor is not Thai and not one of the elite.

In a court filing late last week, US prosecutors said Thailand has not yet responded to a US request to bring Juthamas Siriwan, the former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and her daughter, Jittsopa Siriwan, to the US, The Wall Street Journal reported.

This is typical in Thailand – ignore a problem and hope it goes away – but they haven’t reckoned much with the U.S. Department of Justice.

They were charged in January 2009 in an eight-count indictment with laundering US$1.8 million (57 million baht) in bribes which Mrs Juthamas allegedly received from husband-and-wife film producers Gerald and Patricia Green.

Actually, it was February 2007 and the charges are as follows:

  • Conspiracy to Money Launder
  • Transporting Funds to Promote Unlawful Activity
  • Aiding and Abetting and Causing an Act to be Done
  • Criminal Forfeiture

In the Indictment Former Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand is referred to as “The Governor” – I guess so that she is not confused with the Governator. The article goes on to say that the 30 July date has come and gone with no response from the Thai Government. The Office of the Attorney General in Thailand states that not all the evidence has been compiled. I guess that means another 3-4 years will be required. But, have no fear, the Thai Government does what it does best – form a committee.

As a result, the OAG and National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) have set up a joint committee to investigate the case.

This could add another 5 years to the case despite NACC stating “the joint panel is expected to conclude on the case this month.” I did some research and found numerous news pieces dating back to 2007 right up to present and the vast majority key on two words – bribery and corruption.

The problem here is they are missing the point. According the U.S. law, and forgive me – I am not a lawyer – only the individual(s) giving the bribe can be tried under the FCPA. The recipient cannot be tried under FCPA – so that is why they are attempting to charge former Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand under the Money Laundering Control Act (MLCA) of the United States.

But, Juthamas claims innocence – “I don’t know about that at all. I have no knowledge about this,” she told Reuters and she has a top-notch team that has mounted a defense against the money laundering claims requesting a dismissal.

This has stirred up some legal eagles claiming the U.S. is grasping at straws trying to curb corruption overseas. Part of the problem is push-back from American companies doing business overseas that claim they will be victims of unfair competition from businesses that can offer bribes without fear of reprisals. The bigger problem is this is testing the waters going after a foreign government official.

If the Department of Justice is successful, we can expect more and more trials. If the DOJ fails, we can expect new and harsher laws. Some are calling this “creative justice“.

But, will Thailand ever extradite former Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor? Does anyone know where the heck she is?

For all we know, she has changed her name and departed Thailand for good. After all, $1.8 million goes a long way in some countries. Maybe she is hanging out with former Prime Minster and fugitive from the law, Thaksin Shinawatra – after all – he appointed her as Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and she ran the failed Thailand Elite Card scheme for Thaksin.

This is a very tangled web and there is too much information, mis-information, and distorted information to make a sound judgement from where I sit.

But, I see the United States continuing pursuit of the former Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand but doubt she will ever stand trial.

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