Thai police charge Thaksin with concealing assets
THAILAND: Police ordered exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra to return to Thailand to face charges that he concealed his
ownership of millions of dollars worth of shares from the Thai stock
The order that he report by June 29 came just a day after state
prosecutors said they would seek to have him and his wife tried for a
suspicious land deal. In addition, an anti-graft panel has ordered 60.88
billion baht (US$1.88 billion; euro1.40 billion) of his assets frozen on
suspicion they were gained in an illicit manner.
Thaksin became a billionaire in the telecommunications sector before
entering politics and serving as prime minister in 2001-2006.
Sunai Manomaiudom, director-general of the Department of Special
Investigations, said police had strong evidence that Thaksin and his
wife had secretly held shares through nominee companies in SC Asset
PCL - then a Shinawatra family real estate company. The companyâ€™s
market capitalization as of Monday was about 3.05 billion baht (US$94.5
million; euro70.5 million).
Sunai said they must present themselves to police between June 26 and
June 29. â€śIf he intentionally refuses to come, we will issue an arrest
warrant,â€ť said Sunai, who added that the case had nothing to do with
The order gives Thaksin a deadline for returning home for the first
time since he was ousted in a bloodless Sep. 19, 2006 coup while he was
in New York. He has divided his time since then between a residence in
London and travel around Asia. His wife and other family members
continue to live in Thailand, but frequently travel abroad.
Thaksin was ousted after demonstrations calling for him to step down
because of alleged corruption and abuse of power. Another business deal
by his family, the 73.3 billion baht (US$1.9 billion; euro1.55 billion
at January 2006 rates of exchange) sale last year of telecommunications
company Shin Corp. to a Singapore state investment company, contributed
to public discontent.
The military has strongly discouraged Thaksinâ€™s return, fearing it
will cause political instability by rallying his loyalists. Last week,
army commander Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin said the former prime minister
might be harmed by his enemies if he returned to Thailand now.
But Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told reporters Tuesday that the
government would ensure Thaksinâ€™s safety if he returned.
â€śHe has the right to explain and he should be considered innocent for
now. I want everything to proceed according to the justice system,â€ť he
Thaksinâ€™s lawyer and de facto spokesman in Thailand, Noppadol Pattama,
quoted Thaksin as saying that he â€śis ready to follow the law and the
courtsâ€™ orders.â€ť But he declined to comment on the charges, and would
not specifically say if Thaksin will return by the police deadline.
Thaksin, his wife Pojamarn, and her sister-in-law Bussaba Damapong -
a former SC Asset executive - were charged with violating regulations
requiring disclosure of corporate information to the Stock Exchange of
Thaksin and his wife are charged with violating disclosure rules by
failing to report the sale of shares they controlled - an offense that
carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of 500,000
baht (US$15,500; euro11,600).
Sunai said police also found evidence that Thaksin violated a law on
Cabinet members holding company shares, which carries a maximum penalty
of ten years in prison and a 1 million baht (US$31,000; euro23,000)
Serving ministers are not allowed to hold more than 5 percent of
company shares or to be involved in company management.
Sunai said police would forward their evidence on that charge to the
National Counter-Corruption Commission, which could recommend
Asked if what would happen if Thaksin did not appear by the deadline,
Sunai said that so long as Thailandâ€™s attorney-general approved
Thaksinâ€™s indictment in absentia, he could request Thaksinâ€™s
Bangkok, Wednesday, AP