Thaksin’s wife found guilty of tax evasion
THAILAND: The wife of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
was found guilty Thursday of evading millions of dollars in taxes and
sentenced to three years in prison.
The landmark ruling against Pojaman Shinawatra strikes a major blow
to Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, and has long denied any
wrongdoing by his family in the tax case and several other corruption
cases against his inner circle.
“The defendants are high-profile and wealthy citizens,” the judge
said. Pojaman’s husband “was the leader of the country and she is
obligated to pay taxes as a model for society.”
“But the defendants lied, cheated and conspired to evade taxes, which
is regarded as a serious crime,” the judge said.
The 51-year-old former first lady, in a pale blue suit and strand of
pearls, looked stunned as the judge pronounced the verdict. She was
promptly released on 5 million baht (US$149,000) bail and walked out of
the Bangkok Criminal Court with her family into a waiting car.
Thaksin’s spokesman, Pongthep Thepkanjana, said lawyers planned to
“Thaksin is not disheartened,” he said. “They respect the court
ruling but it is not the end. We will fight until the end.”
Pojaman, her brother and secretary were convicted of evading millions
of dollars in taxes in 1997 through a complicated transfer of shares in
the family’s flagship business that involved placing stocks in the name
of one of the family’s maids.
The court also sentenced her brother, Bhanapot Damapong, to three
years in prison and the secretary to two years.
All three had pleaded innocent.
More than 300 police were deployed in the area amid concerns of
possible protests by both Thaksin’s supporters and opponents. More than
1,000 supporters mobbed the family as they exited the court.
Thaksin was ousted after being accused of massive corruption and
abuse of power during his two terms as prime minister. Four corruption
cases have been filed in the courts against Thaksin, two others against
his wife, and three cases against two of his children. Many others are
Thursday’s case centered on a 1997 transfer of shares in Shinawatra
Computer, the company that later became Shin Corp. - Thailand’s biggest
telecommunications company - before it was sold in 2006 to a Singapore
state-owned company for US$2.2 billion.
The share transfer was valued at 738 million baht - about US$22.2
million at the current exchange rate - and deemed tax-free. The family
had listed the deal as a transfer of shares carried out within the stock
market, which is exempt from capital gains taxes.