BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): Former culture minister Ittipol Khunpluem (pic) has offered to surrender to authorities to fight a malfeasance case, a senior anti-graft official said on Friday (Sept 22).
National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) secretary-general Niwatchai Kasemmongkol said he had learned that Ittipol, who has been on the run for weeks, had contacted concerned authorities about his surrender.
“But I don’t know which state agency the former culture minister will give himself up to – whether it will be the court that issued his arrest warrant,” Niwatchai said.
On Sept 5, the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases issued an arrest warrant for Ittipol after he failed to report to the prosecutor despite a court summons issued the previous day.
Ittipol is accused of dereliction of duty under Article 157 of the Criminal Code for issuing an illegal permit for the construction of a luxury condominium at the base of Phra Tamnak Mountain in Pattaya City in 2008 during his tenure as its mayor.
On Aug 3, the Office of the Attorney-General decided to file charges against Ittipol and nine others as being responsible for issuing the permit and ordered them to report to the prosecutors on Sept 4.
After they failed to show up on that date, the court issued arrest warrants for Ittipol and his alleged accomplices, due to the risk of them fleeing the country.
Ittipol flew from Bangkok to Cambodia on Aug 30, while two other key defendants in the case – Phichet Uthaiwatthananont and Witthaya Sirinworachai – fled the country on September 3, according to media reports.
Ittipol had served as culture minister from 2019 to 2023 in the previous government led by General Prayut Chan-O-Cha. The 49-year-old, born into a prominent political family in Chonburi province, had served as the mayor of Pattaya from 2008 to 2016.
His late father, Somchai, better known as “Kamnan Poh”, a local politician, was dubbed the “Godfather of Chonburi” due to his high influence in the eastern seaboard province.