FOLLOW-ON FROM VERDICT 10 Criminal cases now possible

Thaksin could face suits from agencies

Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was found guilty of hiding his assets and abusing his power while in office. The Supreme Court’s verdict could lead to at least 10 separate criminal cases in connection with the landmark Bt76-billion assets-seizure case.

First, the revenue-sharing percentage of a prepaid-mobile concession agreement between Advanced Info Service (AIS) and state-owned TOT was reduced from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

This resulted in TOT losing Bt70.2 billion in revenue, including an estimated loss of Bt14.2 billion from 2001-06 and another estimated loss of Bt56 billion from 2006-15.

This could prompt TOT to file a separate lawsuit seeking compensation for the damage caused by the concession amendment.

Second, there was a failure to enforce a satellite concession contract between Shin Satellite (ShinSat) and the Transport Ministry, resulting in public damage of Bt20 billion.

ShinSat, a unit of Shin Corp and since renamed Thaicom, was supposed to invest in Thaicom 4, a back-up satellite costing Bt4 billion, under its contract with the government.

However, the contract was changed to allow ShinSat to switch to launch the commercially oriented iPSTAR satellite instead of Thaicom 4.

In addition, the concession contract was amended to reduce Shin Corp’s investment burden in ShinSat from 51 per cent to 40 per cent.

Third, the state-owned Export-Import Bank of Thailand (Exim Bank) was persuaded to extend a Bt4-billion loan to the Burmese government to buy satellite services and equipment from ShinSat. This later caused the Finance Ministry to set aside Bt670 million as an interest subsidy covering the 12-year loan contract.

This could lead to a separate lawsuit by Exim Bank or the Finance Ministry seeking compensation.

Meanwhile, there could be four potential perjury cases related to official asset declarations of public office holders and their spouses.

Records of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) show the asset declarations of Thaksin and his then-wife Pojaman na Pombejra back in 2001 were Bt569 million and Bt9.96 billion, respectively.

However, Pojaman, in her recent closing statement in the Bt76-billion assets-seizure case, told the Supreme Court that Bt34 billion of the Bt76 billion belonged to her even though she reported her assets amounted to only Bt9.96 billion in February 2001, when Thaksin first assumed the premiership.

Besides the 2001 declaration, Pojaman reported to the NACC in 2005 that her assets had dropped to Bt8.91 billion and those of Thaksin to Bt506 million.

In the 2005 NACC filing, Panthongtae and Pinthongta, Thaksin’s son and daughter, who had not yet come of age, reported combined assets of Bt3.26 billion.

In 2006, Thaksin declared his assets to be Bt557 million, while Pojaman’s wealth was reported as Bt8.84 billion. Panthongtae and Pinthongta, who had come of age, were no longer required by law to declare their assets.

In this context, Pojaman had argued the Bt34 billion was owned by her before Thaksin assumed the premiership in 2001 and later transferred to Panthongtae and her step-brother, Bhanapot Damapong.

As a result, the entire amount could not be included in the Bt76-billion assets-seizure case.

In addition to these potential perjury cases, another two cases are pending in court. First, Thaksin was charged with abusing his power while in office by converting the AIS mobile-phone concession fee into an excise tax, thus weakening state-owned TOT, which was supposed to receive the concession fee.

Second, the fugitive ex-premier was charged with abusing his office by influencing state-owned Exim Bank to lend the Bt4 billion to the Burmese government to buy ShinSat satellite services and equipment.

In addition, Pojaman has been charged with evading taxes involving the transfer of Shin Corp shares. That case is now pending in the Appeal Court.

By Budsarakham Sinlapalavan
Nophakhun Limsamarnphun
The Nation
Published on February 27, 2010

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