11 July 2024

Thai Supreme Court President Mrs. Mathenee Chalotorn signed an order yesterday (Monday), to set up a 4-member fact-finding panel to investigate the Toyota Motors Thailand’s (TMT) bribery scandal, involving import duties on Toyota Prius hybrid cars, in which three former senior judges have been implicated by Law360.

The panel comprises senior judges of the Supreme and Appeals courts, with a chief judge of the Supreme Court as its head. Mr. Suriyon Hongwilai, spokesman for the Office of Judicial Affairs, said the panel is authorized to extend its investigation to include any other individuals implicated in the scandal.

He stressed that the Thai judiciary will try its utmost to uncover the truth about this matter as quickly as possible and will deal decisively with all those found to be involved, without exception.

Last Friday, the Office of Judicial Affairs also set up a 10-member working committee to seek information from the US Justice Department and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which investigated the bribery in the US.

Yesterday, former Supreme Court President Mr. Direk Ingkhaninan and former Appeals Court President Chaisith Trachutham, who were implicated as being involved by Law360, filed a joint complaint with the Crime Suppression Division police, seeking an investigation and legal action for libel against the Law360 website, its administrator and those who shared the information on social media.

CSD Commander Pol Maj-Gen Suwat Saennoom later told the media that the CSD will have to clarify first whether it is empowered to pursue the case, because the alleged defamation occurred outside Thailand.

Another former Supreme Court President, Mr. Salaikate Wattanaphan, who was also implicated by Law360, has asked the Office of Judicial Affairs to investigate the case. He is also reported to have lodged a complaint with the CSD police.

A separate complaint was lodged with Huey Khwang police yesterday by Mr. Songphol Annanont, managing director of the Annanont law firm, which represented TMT in the Thai courts.

TMT claimed that Prius hybrid cars are CKD (complete knockdown) models, subject to 0-10% import duty, but the Customs Department claimed the cars are CBU (completely built units) and are subject to higher duties.

TMT won the case in the First Court, but lost in the Appeals Court. The case is now pending with the Supreme Court.

Mr. Songphol said his law firm is no longer representing TMT in the Supreme Court and would like the police to take action against Law360 for alleged libel.