Former TV news-talk host Sorayuth Suthassanachinda has ended up with a reduced jail sentence roughly equivalent to eight years following a Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday (January 21).
Sorayuth, a major TV celebrity in his day, was convicted of cheating MCOT Plc by embezzling Bt138 million in advertising revenue in 2005-2006 during the time which his media firm, Raisom Co Ltd had a contract with MCOT to co-produce the Kui Kui Khao news talk programme.
Montha Theeradet, a former employee of Raisom, was also convicted and handed the same sentence of six years and 24 months, reduced from a sentence of 13 years and four months rendered by the Appeals Court in 2017.
Pitchapha Iamsa-ad, a former MCOT employee, was convicted as the lead defendant and jailed for 12 years, reduced from 20 years.
Raisom Co, the fourth defendant in the case, was fined Bt72,000, down from the Bt80,000 assigned in the Appeals Court.
Sorayuth, Montha and Raisom repaid the embezzled funds in full, but the Supreme Court verdict – read at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases – said that action came only after MCOT had been conducting a fact-finding and a disciplinary probe for two years.
Pitchapha was found guilty of violating the Offences of Officials in State Organisations or Agencies Act and the three others of abetting in the violation.
In recognising grounds to reduce their sentences, the Supreme Court refused to suspend the jail terms as they requested, noting that Sorayuth was a senior member of the media and should have set a good example for others, but instead resorted to crime, believing he was immune from the law.
The primary court in February 2016 sentenced Pitchapha to 30 years in prison for concealing records of additional advertising revenue. It was her job at MCOT to track commercial time purchased and amounts paid.
Sorayuth and Montha were ordered jailed for 20 years each, later reduced to 13 years and four months, and Raisom was fined Bt120,000, later reduced to Bt80,000.
The three defendants were released on bail of Bt2 million each pending appeal. After the Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s sentences, Sorayuth was bailed for Bt6 million pending a final plea before the Supreme Court, where he hoped to see his prison time suspended.