Reports from Tokyo on Monday say a former executive of Nishimatsu Construction Co. has told Tokyo prosecutors the firm gave a bribe of more than 400 million yen (125.5 million baht) to Bangkok city officials in return for "favours" connected to awarding a tunnel project contract in 2003.
The report did not name any Thai officials, but said they worked at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). In 2003, Samak Sundaravej, now the prime minister, headed the BMA as elected governor.
Quoting "sources," the Japanese reports said the former executive of the major contractor is being investigated by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office on suspicion of violating the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law for bringing in around 100 million yen from overseas without reporting it to custom.
During the investigation of the alleged currency violation, other cases have popped up.
The Bangkok case involves a 2-billion-baht contract to bore a tunnel in northern Bangkok, as part of an anti-flooding project.
Nishimatsu and a local firm - unnamed in the Tokyo reports - won the contract in September 2003.
Bangkok-based staff of Nishimatsu in Thailand prepared bribes after consulting executives of Nishimatsu's Thai partner, the Japanese reports said.
"The payments were apparently made to (Thai) government officials and officials in charge of overseeing bids for the project just before and after the project was awarded," said a report by Kyodo news agency.
The Tokyo press reports said that the Nishimatsu executive now under police questioning in Japan claims he was not directly involved in bribing the officials, but "in return for favours to secure the tunnel construction project, the company paid a total of more than 400 million yen to Thai government officials.
"Such operational funds were necessary in order to be awarded public works projects in Thailand," he was quoted as saying.
Police believe Nishimatsu and the executive maintained a huge slush fund to pay the bribes. Nishimatsu Construction has long had an office in Thailand.
The firm has specialised in underground projects in Bangkok. It built 8.9km of tunnels and nine subway stations.
I want to point out a few things about this story.
1. I'm surprised the bribe is so small. Only 6.25% of the project.
2. I am always fascinated how anytime you get any corruption reported on in the Thai media there has to be an indictment outside the country or a report in the foreign press. The worthless Thai media never goes out of its way to investigate corruption on its own.
3. Samak might be in big trouble if there is any linkage. He and Apirak are already in deep doo doo over the fire truck scandal.