Thai Prosecutors Charge Thaksin, May Seize $2 Billion

Friday, August 29, 2008 by Editor

By Daniel Ten Kate and Rattaphol Onsanit

Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Thai prosecutors charged former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with abusing his power, seeking to confiscate $2.2 billion of assets that were frozen after a 2006 coup.

``The court should seize Thaksin's assets as he earned unusual wealth from a conflict of interest,'' Sakesun Bangsomboon, director-general of the Department of Special Litigation, said today. The attorney general's office used a truck to transfer 240,000 pages of legal documents to the court.

The charges add to three cases already accepted by the Supreme Court in Bangkok against Thaksin, who fled into exile earlier this month claiming the judiciary is corrupt. Thai officials have said they may revoke the billionaire's passport and seek his extradition from England, where he owns Manchester City football club.

Before entering politics, Thaksin, 59, won one of two mobile-phone concessions, and was awarded an exclusive satellite franchise. In 1994, when he was appointed foreign minister in a coalition government, Thaksin and his wife disclosed assets worth $2.4 billion. He formed his own party in 1998 and became prime minister in 2001.

``There is no justifiable reason to claim that he and his family are unusually wealthy,'' Pongthep Thepkanjana, a spokesman for Thaksin, said by phone today. ``These are all assets he had before he became prime minister.''

Shin Corp. Sale

In June 2007, an army-appointed investigative body froze most of the proceeds from his family's sale of its stake in telecommunications firm Shin Corp. to Singapore's state-run Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd. for 73 billion baht ($2.1 billion).

During Thaksin's tenure as prime minister between February 2001 and September 2006, Shin Corp. shares rose 48 percent to 31 baht. Thailand's benchmark SET Index more than doubled to 703 points during that time. Thaksin's family sold its stake in Shin on Jan. 23, 2006.

Shin controls Advanced Info Service Pcl, the country's biggest mobile phone company. Its shares doubled to 93 baht while Thaksin was prime minister, in line with the benchmark index. During the same period, Total Access Communication Pcl, Thailand's second-largest mobile phone company and listed on the Singapore Exchange, increased 27 percent.

Since the coup that deposed Thaksin, Shin shares declined 23 percent to 24 baht, and Advanced Info shares dropped 5 percent to 88 baht. Total Access shares increased 44 percent to $1.24 in that time, while the SET Index fell 3.5 percent.

Thaksin's Wife Sentenced

Thaksin's wife, Pojamarn Shinawatra, was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion last month, the first conviction against a member of his family. Eleven days later the couple claimed the cases against them were politically motivated and fled into exile, prompting the Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants.

Thaksin currently faces three separate trials, with prosecutors accusing him of abusing his power to help his wife buy a large land plot in Bangkok, authorizing a loan to Myanmar that allegedly benefited his family's former company and allowing his government to approve a state lottery in 2003.

The Supreme Court plans to rule on the land case on Sept. 17, the first decision dealing directly with Thaksin in any of the pending litigation.

Source: Thai Prosecutors Charge Thaksin, May Seize $2 Billion (Update1)


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