Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Ousted and living in exile, with assets frozen in Thailand, former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ordered today by the Royal Thai Police to appear on charges related to the sale of some of his family’s stock holdings.
The order adds to mounting, increasingly complex legal troubles for Thaksin, the telecommunications billionaire who led Thailand until he was unseated in a coup last year.
Thaksin and his wife, Potjaman Shinawatra, who are both outside of Thailand, were both ordered to present themselves to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) by June 29 at the latest. A relative of Potjaman’s, Busaba Damapong, was also ordered to appear.
“If they intentionally fail to appear, we must issue an arrest warrant,” DSI chief Sunai Manomai-udom was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse.
Noppadol Pattama, Thaksin’s lawyer and spokesman in Thailand, could not say when his client would return.
“We will have to seek legal consultations among the lawyers. His security is only one factor. We will have to see what our options are and consult with him as well,” Noppadol was quoted as saying by Associated Press.
Last week, interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and the junta’s leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, both said Thaksin could return to Thailand of his own free will, in order to appeal the seizure of his assets. But later, Sonthi said Thaksin might face harm if he returned too soon.
The latest charges relate to the transfer of shares in 2000 in a real-estate company called SC Asset to a British Virgin Islands-owned company called Win Mark. Police say the Shinwatras’ controlling ownership of SC Asset was illegally concealed through nominees. Potjaman’s relative, Busaba Damapong, served as executive director of SC Asset.
Through nominee companies and disclosed shares, Sunai said, the Shinawatra family owned 79.87 percent of SC Asset. “Not only did they have control of a majority stake but also control over board decisions,” Sunai told Associated Press.
They broke the law in failing to report their ownership in SC Asset and failing to report the transfer of the shares, Sunai said. They could face five years in prison and fined at least 500,000 baht (about US$15,000), Sunai added.
Thaksin is also supected of violating the prohibition on Cabinet members holding shares in publicly traded companies, and could face up to ten years in prison and a 1 million baht fine for that.
The Office of the Attorney General says Potjaman purchased the land in an auction that was possibly rigged. Valued at 2.1 billion baht before the 1997 Asian financial crisis, and 870 million baht after, Potjaman purchased the land in 2003 for 772 million baht.
The Attorney General’s office is recommending to the Supreme Court that the land be confiscated by the government.
She sent word today that she is seeking medical treatment for headache and irregular heartbeat in Raffles Hospital in Singapore, and that she asked the AEC to delay the hearing.
Potjaman appeared in court last month to plead not guilty to charges of tax evasion in the sale of Shin Corp. stock to Temasek.
The AEC yesterday ordered an additional seven bank accounts seized after it was discovered that the accounts are controlled by the Shinawatra and Damapong families. The accounts contain 8 million baht that was feared missing last week after the AEC ordered 21 of Thaksin’s bank accounts frozen. The 8 million baht had been transferred just before the AEC’s order, to the other seven accounts.
Authorities have frozen a total of 52 billion baht, or about US$1.6 billion, frozen, money they say came from the Shinawatra family’s sale of Shin Corp. stock to Temasek. The stock sale prompted mass protests against Thaksin last year and was one of the factors in the coup that overthrew his government. The authorities also believe that the Shinawatras and the Damapongs have 73 billion baht from the stock sale remaining in Thailand, and officials are still hunting for another 21 billion baht to seize.