Probe targets ex-Bangkok festival exec


Thailand's National Counter Corruption Commission will create a subcommittee to probe whether the former head of the Bangkok International Film Festival received nearly $2 million in kickbacks from 2003-06, an official with Thailand's Department of Special Investigations said.

The department, which has examined evidence for more than a month, plans to send its recommendations to the NCCC today or Tuesday. However, the findings are not expected to be shared with the public, unless the counter-corruption commission believes there is enough solid evidence and recommends that the case be handled by the State Attorney's Office, Col. Piyawat Kingket, chief of the DSI's Bureau for Special Crime Office, told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.

The Thai government began looking into the matter after the FBI filed a 28-page affidavit in December with the U.S. Department of Justice. The documents claimed that the former festival head, Juthamas Siriwan, received $1.7 million in kickbacks from Los Angeles-based Film Festival Management, which ran the festival from 2003-06. Siriwan has maintained her innocence and even threatened to sue the DOJ, though she has yet to file charges.

The FBI report was written in support of bringing corruption charges against Gerald and Patricia Green, co-owners of Film Festival Management and co-producers of Werner Herzog's 2007 film "Rescue Dawn," starring Christian Bale. The report claims that payments were deposited through wire transfers and cashier's checks into the bank accounts of Siriwan's daughter, held in Singapore, the U.K. and the Isle of Jersey.

During the time of the Greens' involvement in the festival, the event's operating budget was about $6 million annually, funded by the government's Tourist Authority of Thailand.

Last year, however, in the wake of the military coup that ousted the government, Siriwan was replaced as head of the tourist authority, and the management company was not rehired. The 2007 festival was subsequently produced by the tourist bureau for about a third of the budgets under Siriwan, though it lacked the star power of years past, when such industry figures as Oliver Stone, Catherine Deneuve and Joel Schumacher were flown in.

There is still a wild card: The first prime minister elected after the coup, Samak Sundaravej, suddenly replaced Thailand's Department of Special Investigation's chief last week. Therefore, before the latest evidence is sent to the corruption commission, the new DSI head will need to examine the report.