Arrest warrant for Itthiphol Khunpluem
Stop the press
Thai Enquirer reports on its Twitter account on September 5th, 2023:
According to news reports, the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Region 2 has issued an arrest warrant for former Culture Minister Itthiphol Khunpluem. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has accused him of granting an improper construction permit to Bali Hai for the construction of a high-rise condominium complex called Waterfront Suites & Residences back in 2008 when he was serving as the mayor of Pattaya. Itthiphol was summoned by the prosecutor to acknowledge his charges on September 4, but he failed to appear. Consequently, the NACC requested an arrest warrant from the court, which was granted on September 5. If found guilty of violating Section 157 of the Criminal Code, he could face imprisonment ranging from 1 to 10 years, and the statute of limitations for this case is 15 years, meaning it will expire on September 10.
Thai Enquirer reports on its Twitter account on September 6th, 2023:
Former Culture Minister Itthiphol Khunpluem could escape arrest if his case expires before apprehension, according to Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, the Secretary-General of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which filed the case against Itthiphol. An arrest warrant was issued for him on September 5 for failing to appear in court to acknowledge his charges. The NACC accuses him of improperly granting a construction permit to Bali Hai for the Waterfront Suites & Residences complex in 2008 when he was Pattaya's mayor. Niwatchai told Isranews that if Itthiphol isn't arrested by the case's September 10 expiration, authorities can't take further action, even with an existing arrest warrant. If found guilty of violating Section 157 of the Criminal Code, Itthiphol could face 1 to 10 years in prison. The case has a 15-year statute of limitations. The NACC filed the case on August 3, but Itthiphol didn't appear when summoned by the Office of the Attorney General. Isranews reported he left the country on August 30, flying to Phnom Penh.
Itthiphol Khunpluem left the country on the same day that the Attorney General ordered his prosecution.
Thai Enquirer reports on its Twitter account on September 7th, 2023:
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has requested the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to seek a new arrest warrant for Former Culture Minister Itthiphol Khunpluem. Before issuing the initial warrant, the OAG had recommended that the NACC petition the court for an arrest warrant with a provision stipulating that the statute of limitations on the case would be suspended if the suspect fled. However, the initial warrant does not include the provision. Consequently, the OAG has now asked the NACC to approach the court for a new warrant that includes the aforementioned provision. This is urgent because the statute of limitations on the case is set to expire on September 10. Itthiphol failed to appear for his court date on September 4, and the latest reports indicate that he left the country on August 30. It took the NACC nearly 15 years to accuse Itthiphol of improperly granting a construction permit to Bali Hai for the Waterfront Suites & Residences complex in 2008 during his tenure as Pattaya's mayor. The NACC only forwarded the case to the OAG on August 3.
For many, it seems that Itthiphol Khunpluem as culture minister under dictator Prayut Chan-o-cha and as a member of his party was untouchable and may still enjoy some protection today.
As in the case of his father, The Godfather of Chonburi, no one in the family seems to know the current whereabouts of Itthiphol Khunpluem as of September 6th, 2023.
Thai Enquirer reports on its Twitter account on September 7th, 2023:
A new arrest warrant, with a provision stipulating that the statute of limitations on the case would be suspended if the suspect fled, has been issued for Former Culture Minister Itthiphol Khunpluem, who left the country on August 30 and did not appear for his court date on September 4. Before issuing the initial warrant, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) had recommended that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) petition the court for an arrest warrant with a provision stipulating that the statute of limitations on the case would be suspended if the suspect fled. However, the initial warrant does not include this provision, which led to the issuance of the new arrest warrant. It took the NACC 14 years and 10 months to accuse Itthiphol of improperly granting a construction permit to Bali Hai for the Waterfront Suites & Residences complex in 2008 during his tenure as Pattaya's mayor. The NACC has yet to provide an explanation for the lengthy delay. The NACC only forwarded the case to the OAG on August 3 of this year. The statute of limitations on the case is set to expire on September 10.
Thai Enquirer reports on its Twitter account on September 12th, 2023:
Senator Tawin Pleansri warned the new government that if they continue to allow blatant inequality in the so-called incarceration of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, it could lead to more conflict in the future. "Do not keep trampling on the feelings of the entire country until they can no longer accept it because it could lead to a major problem," he said. He said the government's promise to uphold the rule of law would mean nothing if they still permit wealthy and influential individuals to undermine the justice system, such as the delays in the prosecution against former culture minister Itthiphol Khunpluem, the special privileges granted to inmate Thaksin, and the Red Bull heir case. He urged the government not to use the excuse that they are only following regulations because people can see through such claims.
September 15th, 2023: The Pattaya News reports that Staff Member of Former Pattaya Mayor Surrenders Himself for Alleged Involvement in Waterfront Condo Controversy.
September 17th, 2023: Khaosod Opinion: Thai 'Influential Figures' Are More Widespread Than Meet the Eyes The new Srettha Thavisin government has declared war on influential figures and mafias following the recent killing of Pol. Maj. Sivakorn Saibua by a gunman allegedly working for a local sub-district chief (Kamnan) in Nakhon Pathom province, who is believed to be a local influential figure. The publication also contains some information about Itthiphol Khunpluem and his family.
September 17th, 2023: Smoke and Mirrors clarifies on their Twitter account:
As is becoming the norm in liberal reporting on issues related to the incoming administration of PT, only one Kunpluem politician is mentioned. Probably because he is the only one of the clan associated with Prayut. The rest of Kamnan Poh's political progeny are Pheu Thai now.
September 22nd, 2023: The Nation: Former culture minister Ittipol Khunpluem has offered to surrender to authorities to fight a malfeasance case, a senior anti-graft official said on Friday.
September 22nd, 2023: Bangkok Post: Former culture minister and Pattaya mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, facing an arrest warrant for malfeasance in connection with the approval of a controversial condominium development in Pattaya in 2008, has reportedly contacted authorities to surrender.
Update: (October 9th, 2023)
Thai Enquirer reports on its Twitter account on October 9th, 2023:
Former Culture Minister Ittipol Khunpluem has been arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Ittipol fled to Cambodia on September 5th after the Office of the Attorney General filed charges against him and nine others for their involvement in issuing an illegal construction permit to Bali Hai. This permit was for the construction of a luxury condominium at the base of Phra Tamnak Mountain in Pattaya during his tenure as the city's mayor in 2008. Ittipol is now being transferred to the Office of the Attorney General, Division 2, in Rayong. The Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Region 2 has granted bail to Ittipol with a surety of 120,000 baht, even though he fled the country in an attempt to escape prosecution last month. Ittipol has denied all wrongdoings, and his next court date is scheduled for October 31st.
Thai PBS World Former culture minister Itthiphol Kunplome freed on bail after indictment on corruption charges Former Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome was indicted on corruption charges this afternoon (Monday) in the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, after his return from Cambodia this morning.
The Nation Ex-culture minister back from Cambodia to face charges over Pattaya condo Former culture minister Itthipol Khunpluem returned to Thailand on Monday to face charges stemming from an illegal Pattaya condominium project back in 2008.
Bangkok Post Former Pattaya mayor arrested, released on bail Itthiphol Kunplome, until recently the minister for culture, was arrested on his arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport from Phnom Penh on Monday morning for alleged graft in a controversial condominium project he approved 15 years ago when Pattaya mayor.
Wouldn't it be interesting to know what negotiations Ittipol Khunpluem and/or his family conducted between September 22th (the date Ittipol offered to surrender to the authorities) and October 9th (the date of his return)?
For additional information:
Wikipedia: Itthiphol Khunpluem
Thai PBS World: Arrest warrant issued for former culture minister
The Nation: Arrest warrant issued for former Pattaya mayor Ittipol Khunpluem
The Pattaya News: Former Pattaya Mayor Faces Arrest Warrant Regarding Waterfront Condo as Case Nears Expiration in Four Days
PS The Pattaya News report also provides some background information on the controversial Waterfront project
The Pattaya News: UPDATE: Wanted Former Pattaya Mayor Reportedly Flees Thailand to Evade Arrest in Waterfront Condo Case
Bangkok Post: Arrest warrant for missing former culture minister and Pattaya mayor
The Nation: Prosecutors race against time to keep Ittipol's corruption case alive
Bangkok Post: New arrest warrant suggested for ex-minister
Pattaya News Flash: The Legacy of Itthiphol Kunplome
Pattaya News Flash: The Godfather of Chonburi
This is a developing story: We'll give updates on the situation as we learn more.