Commerce officials in corruption scandal
June 9, 2010

The Commerce Ministry has been rocked by corruption allegations involving unscrupulous high-level officials enriching themselves from projects designed to help enterprises hit from the recent rioting.

Questions are also being asked about the ministry's high budget for the Thailand Grande Sale fair, which comes to Bt20 million per exhibition.

The ministry yesterday received a joint complaint from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) about officials asking for "tea money" to be allowed to participate in the trade fairs.

The complaint letter to Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai and other senior officials alleged that some ministry personnel had asked for extra payments from SMEs wanting to join the fair.

"The officials have threatened to ban us [the SMEs] from the fair if we do not pay them the amount they are asking for," the letter explained, adding that the officials were specifically targeting SMEs because they feared being questioned if they tried to hit up large businesses.

In reality, the ministry is bound to provide free booths for enterprises affected by the recent red-shirt riots.

A source also said the ministry had set a very high budg?et for each trade fair. These funds are used only to set up booths, promote the fair and organise an opening ceremony.

The source alleged that a certain company that had won the right to organise the Thailand Grande Sales had close relations with certain politicians within the ministry.

This company did not won any procurement bidding, but rather was selected via a special method, said the source.

The ministry has organised three Thailand Grande Sales: at Muang Thong Thani from May 15-20, on Silom Road from May 26-27 and in Pattaya last Saturday and Sunday.

The ministry will organise a fourth Thailand Grande Sale at the Nonthaburi City Hall this weekend.