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Former PM Thaksin's wife convicted of tax evasion


July 31, 2008

Thailand: Former PM Thaksin's wife convicted of tax evasion
The wife of Thailand's deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was convicted Thursday of tax evasion in the first ruling against his family since the 2006 coup that toppled him from power, reported AFP. Pojaman Shinawatra and her brother were given three years in prison, while her secretary received a two-year sentence.

"The actions by the three defendants are serious violations of the law. The court has decided that the three defendants were guilty of tax fraud," judge Pramote Pipatpramote said. All three were released on bail of five million baht each ($150,000) pending appeal, court officials said.

"We will appeal within 30 days. The lawyers will look into the details of the law," Phongthep Thepkanjana, Pojaman's spokesman told AFP.

Pojaman, wearing sunglasses and a sombre grey suit, smiled as she left the court flanked by Thaksin and their three children, to be greeted by hundreds of supporters carrying red roses.

Some 100 other supporters had filled the courtroom as the verdict was read out and simultaneously broadcast nationwide on television.

The trial attracted a huge security presence, with 200 police and guards surrounding the court, some wearing riot gear.

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Pojaman and the two other defendants were convicted of colluding to evade tax worth 546 million baht ($16.5 million) in a 1997 transfer of shares in the family's Shinawatra Computer and Communication company, which later became Thailand's telecom giant Shin Corp. The defendants denied the charges, insisting the shares were a gift.

Bhanapot, former chairman of Shin Corp., a Thai telecommunications company, received 4.5 million shares of the firm valued at 738 million baht ($22 million) on Nov. 7, 1997, from Pojamarn's secretary, who was also convicted today and sentenced to two years in jail.

Bhanapot said the transfer shouldn't be subject to tax because the shares were a wedding gift from Pojamarn, an argument the court said today was ``unconvincing.''

The share transfer couldn't be a wedding gift because Bhanapot registered his marriage in January 1996, according to findings from the Assets Scrutiny Committee, a body created after the coup to investigate Thaksin, his family and members of his cabinet. The share transfer should be taxed 270 million baht, excluding a penalty fee, it said.

The case is one of a dozen corruption claims against Thaksin, his family and his political allies currently working its way through the legal system. He and his wife are also set to testify in August at another corruption trial against them, in which Pojaman, 51, is accused of using her billionaire husband's political influence to buy a plot of prime Bangkok real estate from a government agency at one-third of its estimated value.

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