Former Shin Corp owners face tax evasion charges

14 Mar 07

The wife of Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a coup last year, will be charged with tax evasion and faces up to 14 years in jail, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Potjaman Shinawatra, her brother and her secretary would face charges over a transfer of shares in what is now Shin Corp following a probe by a military-appointed panel, a spokesman for the Attorney-General’s Office said.

“The Attorney-General has agreed with the recommendations to prosecute all the three,” Attapol Yaisawang told reporters, referring to recommendations by the investigators.

The three faced jail terms of between three months and seven years and fines of between 2,000 baht ($57) and 200,000 baht ($5,700), he said.

“Potjaman and her brother will be charged with two counts of the same crime, so they will be given twice the penalty if found guilty,” Attapol said without saying when a trial would start.

In November, graft investigators ordered the Revenue Department to tax her brother Bannapot almost $15 million on 4.5 million shares he bought from a Shinawatra maid with money given to him by Potjaman in 1997.

The investigators ruled the deal, decreed tax-free at the time as a gift on a special occasion, was a handout by Potjaman to her brother, who was then chairman of what is now Shin Corp, and must be taxed.

Thaksin’s family sold its controlling stake in Shin Corp, the telecommunications giant he founded as a computer supplier, to Singapore state investment firm Temasek for a tax-free $1.9 billion in January 2006.

That deal, which cost Temasek $3.8 billion, is also being investigated by the panel, set up to probe allegations of graft surrounding Thaksin and authorised to freeze assets.

The panel has also accused Potjaman of underpaying for a prime piece of Bangkok real estate bought from the central bank.

It concluded that Thaksin and his wife had broken laws barring spouses of cabinet ministers from business deals with state agencies.

But any trial on the land deal is still months away. The panel says it wants to hear Thaksin’s side of the story before sending its findings to prosecutors.

If found guilty, Thaksin and Potjaman face up to 10 years in jail and confiscation of the land.

The deposed prime minister is in exile and the government says he cannot return until after elections, promised for late this year, are held. ($1=35.01 baht)

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