Bangkok – Thailand’s Supreme Cout on Thursday began hearing a case against fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his family that could lead to the seizure of 76 billion baht (2 billion dollars) of their frozen assets. Thaksin’s lawyer Chatit Thanthaprasat and his former wife Potjaman’s secretary Kanjana Honghern appeared in court to hear charges against the family.
The case before the Supreme Court for Political Office Holders concerns whether the Shinawatra family obtained its wealth in an unusual manner with the sale of their shares in the once family-owned Shin Corp to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings on January 23, 2006.
The sale earned the family 76 billion baht tax free, but arguably marked the beginning of the downfall of Thaksin, who was prime minister between January, 2001 and September, 2006.
Thaksin pushed through legislation three days before the massive Shin Corp sale allowing Thai telecommunication companies to sell up to 49 per cent of their equity to a foreign entity. The previous ceiling for foreign holdings had been 20 per cent.
Because the sale was conducted through the stock exchange, which waives taxes on capital gains, the Shinawatras avoided all taxes on their 2-billion-dollar gain.
The former premier is charged with abusing his power in facilitating the Shin Corp sale.
The sale outraged the Bangkok-based middle class and the political elite, sparking mass protests against Thaksin’s increasingly self-serving autocratic rule that eventually led to a coup on September 19, 2006, that toppled him.
After the coup, a military-installed government froze the accounts of the Shinawatra clan in Thai banks, amounting to 76 billion baht in cash.
On August 22, last year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case against the Shinawatra family to determine whether the money they acquired from the Shin Corp sale was illegal.
The same court on October 20, 2008, found Thaksin guilty of abuse of power for allowing his wife Potjaman to successfully bid for a piece of prime land in Bangkok at a government auction in 2003.
The court sentenced him, in absentia, to two years in jail.
Potjaman, who divorced Thaksin last year allegedly for legal reasons, has also been sentenced to three years in jail for tax evasion.
Thaksin has been living in self-imposed exile since August, 2008, shortly after Potjaman’s conviction.
She has since returned to Thailand to appeal the sentence.
The frozen assets case is expected to take years to complete. There will be more than 50 court sessions and 114 witnesses .
Earth Times / 16 Jul 2009
Thaksin to Send Attorney to Testify on Seizure of 76 Billion Baht
Former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra has reportedly prepared to send his attorney to testify in the first trial of the case filed by the prosecution seeking to seize 76 billion baht of his assets.
The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for holders of political positions will today begin questioning witnesses for the case filed by public prosecutors, which is seeking to confiscate 76 billion baht worth of assets from former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his family.
Thaksin’s attorney team has prepared two witnesses — Kanjanapa Honghern, personal secretary of Thaksin’s ex-wife Khun Ying Potjaman Damapong, and Chatthip Tanthaprasat, Thaksin’s lawyer. The event is thought to be an important appointment for presenting the evidence to oppose the indictment.
The case was filed by the attorney-general to seek a court order to confiscate Thaksin and his family’s assets of 76.6 billion baht including interest. These assets were allegedly acquired from Thaksin’s abuse of power while he was the prime minister.
The former premier has reportedly prepared 56 witnesses, while the prosecutors have prepared 58 witnesses.