Thai police: Temasek broke law in Shin Corp buy

March 21, 2007
Singapore Democrats

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Reuters, Bernama
20 Mar 07

Thailand’s police chief said on Tuesday he believed Singapore state investment firm Temasek broke Thai laws when it acquired telecoms group Shin Corp for US$3.8 billion (S$5.8 billion) last year.

Police would send their findings to prosecutors within 60 days, national police chief General Sereepisut Taemeeyaves told a news conference.

He did not indicate how long it would take them to decide whether to file charges.

‘We have enough evidence to believe that Kularb Kaew has broken the Foreign Business Act,’ he said, referring to the holding company set up as part of Temasek’s takeover of Shin Corp.

Police have been investigating the case since a Commerce Ministry probe last year found that Temasek may have overstepped Thai laws by using ‘nominee’ shareholders to skirt a 49 per cent limit on foreign ownership.

Temasek, which has denied any wrongdoing, has come under intense scrutiny in Thailand since a bloodless coup ousted Shin Corp founder Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September.

The key question is whether Kularb Kaew, controlled by a Malaysia-based Thai, Surin Upatakul, who was a partner in the takeover, is a Thai company or a Temasek nominee.

Mr Surin and three others involved in the deal failed to show up for a meeting with police on Monday, Gen Seereepisut said without revealing what it was about. The meeting was rescheduled for April 3, he said.

Police likely to charge Surin

Thai police are likely to charge Mr Surin, the managing director of Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd (MPHB), for acting as a nominee for Temasek.

MPHB was incorporated in 1975 with financial services, stock-brokering and gaming as its core businesses.

‘He (Surin) has informed us that he will come to meet the investigators on April 3. We will ask the Attorney-General’s Office (AGO) to file charges against Surin and three other people within the next two months,’ Gen Sereepisut said at the press conference to mark the sixth month of last year’s military coup.

Army Chief, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who ousted Mr Thaksin on Sept 19, was at the press conference, where he gave an update on the various measures taken by the army and other government agencies to justify the coup.

Representatives from AGO, Police, National Legislative Assembly, Government Spokesman Bureau, Election Commission and Asset Examination Committee also presented their report cards.

Mr Surin’s name appeared widely in the Thai press after Mr Thaksin sold his family-owned Shin to Temasek in January last year in a controversial deal that was seen as a catalyst for the premier’s ouster eight months later.

A Thai national, Mr Surin, 57, became the major shareholder of Kularb Kaew, after buying a 68 per cent stake in the company but Thai authorities launched investigation last year following suspicion that he acted on behalf of Temasek.

At the height of the controversial deal, Kularb Kaew held a 51-per cent stake in Cedar, and Cedar held a 51-per cent stake in Shin Corp Plc.

During an investigation by the Commerce Ministry, Mr Surin, known by his Chinese name Lau Khin Koon in Malaysia and a permanent resident there, had said that he used his own money to purchase the shares and denied he was a nominee of Temasek.

According to press reports, Mr Surin, whose family was involved in the textile business in Thailand, moved to Penang to continue his studies in 1965 where he also managed his family’s business interests grouped under publicly-listed MWE Holdings Bhd.