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Juthamas quits over film fest scandal

The former head of Thailand's state-run tourism authority resigned as deputy leader of a political party contesting the upcoming polls amid accusations she received $1.7 million in bribes from a US couple.

Juthamas Siriwan, who was Tourism Authortity of Thailand (TAT) governor between 2002 to 2006, handed in her resignation as deputy leader of the Puea Pandin Party after being fingered on Tuesday by the US Justice Department as the recipient of 1.7 million dollars in bribes from US film executive Gerald Green and his wife Patricia.

"Juthamas has resigned in a show of responsibility," said Puea Pandin party spokesman Wachiramon Kanakasemthanawat. "Her resignation will facilitate a transparent investigation into her case."

He said Juthamas' resignation assures there is no impact on the Puea Pandin party which is contesting the general election on Sunday.

Juthamas has denied having received a bribe from the Greens, who were arrested in Los Angeles on Tuesday on federal charges that they conspired to bribe a TAT official to obtain a contract to run the Bangkok International Film Festival worth more than 10 million dollars, a US Justice Department statement said.

The complaint alleges that from 2003 and continuing into 2007, the Greens conspired with others to bribe the former governor of the tourism authority and president of the film festival.

"As a result of her position at the TAT, the governor was able to influence the awarding of the Bangkok International Film Festival contracts as well as other TAT contracts. More than 1.7 million dollars in payments were allegedly made for the benefit of the governor," the US Justice Department said.

The case is being investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office.

Thailand's National Counter Corruption Commission has sought further information on the case from the US to determine whether it will launch an investigation into Juthamas.

"All the procedures involving the case had been done according to the regulations and with fairness and transparence to all agencies concerned," Juthamas told a press conference in Bangkok on Wednesday. dpa

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