Court to seize $1.4B from former Thai PM


Thailand’s supreme court Friday found the country’s former prime minister guilty of abuse of power and seized a big chunk of his fortune.

In a verdict that took hours to deliver, the court said Thaksin Shinawatra changed the law while he was in office to favor Shin Corp, his communications company.

The court said it is seizing more than 46 billion baht (about $1.4 billion dollars U.S.) from him.

Explainer: Who is Thaksin Shinawatra?

Thaksin was found guilty on all charges against him involving abuse of power. The court said he used his authority to cut the tax rate on pre-paid phone cards and took steps to ensure his mobile network would get preferential treatment with regard to roaming fees.

The court also said Thaksin maintained control of his company after he claimed to have transferred shares to his family members.

The prosecution alleged that Thaksin illegally transferred the shares to his family, who then sold them to the Singapore government’s Temasek without paying tax.

The supreme court ruled that Thaksin changed rules regarding foreign ownership of Thai companies to enable Shin Corp to be sold to the Singaporeans.

The defense team argued that neither Thaksin nor his wife owned the Shin Corp shares while he was prime minister, having sold them to their son, who in turn sold Shin Corp to Singapore. The defense also said the Assets Scrutiny Committee — which has led the investigation — was politically motivated, having been appointed after the bloodless coup that ousted Thaksin.

The court also ruled Friday that Thaksin was involved in insurance fraud involving satellite communications, misspending money earmarked for replacing a broken state owned satellite, instead renting space on other satellites and pocketing the difference.

The total value of the family’s assets frozen in Thailand is 76.6 billion baht (about $2.3 billion dollars U.S.), but there is speculation that he has a great deal more money elsewhere.

The court confiscated more than 46 billion baht but said he can keep the rest which he had before he went into politics.

Thaksin was prime minister from 2001 to 2006.

In 2008 he was found guilty and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for a land deal that enabled his wife to buy a valuable city plot for a fraction of its true value.

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