Thai graft-busters freeze Thaksinâ€™s assets
THAILAND: Thailandâ€™s anti-graft panel said it would freeze
assets held by ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his family,
totalling at least 52.9 billion baht (1.52 billion dollars).
The Assets Examination Committee (AEC), which the junta set up after
taking power last year, said it would block 21 accounts that hold the
profits from the controversial sale of Thaksinâ€™s Shin Corp telecom giant
to Singaporeâ€™s Temasek Holdings.
The committee also ordered a freeze on an unspecified number of
personal accounts held by Thaksin and his wife Pojaman, the panelâ€™s
spokesman Sak Korsaengruang told reporters.
â€śTodayâ€™s decision to freeze their assets is not politically
motivated. The committee has evidence that Thaksin broke the law,â€ť
committee member Kaesan Athipho told reporters.
Thaksin quickly threatened to sue for the return of his assets, with
his lawyer Noppadol Pattama saying the former premier â€śstrongly feels
that he was treated unfairly and illegally by the AEC.â€ť
â€śWe will put together a good team of lawyers to file legal suits
against all key members of the AEC and reclaim the majority of the
assets frozen by the committee,â€ť he told AFP.
â€śThey lack evidence. We are confident that we will prevail in the
court,â€ť he added. The decision nevertheless delivers a sharp new blow to
Thaksin less than two weeks after a top military-appointed court
disbanded his political party and barred him and 110 other top members
from Thai politics for five years.
The courtâ€™s move to dissolve Thai Rak Thai has sparked daily protests
against the junta that ousted him last September.
Some 8,000 Thaksin supporters took to a plaza in central Bangkok late
Monday, chanting â€śJunta, get out!â€ť Organisers put the crowd at 30,000
and said they believed the committeeâ€™s decision would only embolden the
demonstrators, who plan a major rally on June 24.
Thaksinâ€™s family made 73.2 billion baht when it sold Shin Corp to
Temasek in a tax-free deal in January 2006, but only 52.9 billion baht
remains in the 21 accounts targeted by the graft-busters, Kaesan said.
The committee declined to estimate how many other private accounts
Thaksin and Pojaman might hold, or how much money might be in them, but
ordered banks in Thailand to freeze all accounts in their names.
Thaksin made a fortune from Shin Corp before he entered politics. The
telecom company eventually grew to include cell phones, satellites, an
Internet service and even a stake in an airline. Ukrist Pathmanrand, of
Chulalongkorn Universityâ€™s Institute of Asian Studies, said the assets
freeze would help justify the coup in the eyes of the Thai public.
â€śThey gathered enough evidence after a long process of investigation
to make sure that those accused by the junta did commit wrongdoings,â€ť
Ukrist told AFP.
â€śNow, the junta has justified the coup.â€ť For Thaksinâ€™s lawyer
Noppadol, the move â€śdamages Thailandâ€™s reputation in the international
arena. It was another action to discredit Thaksin and his wife.â€ť
Bangkok, Tuesday, AFP