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NEWS UPDATES 27 February 2010

Thai court orders seizure of $1.4 billion from ex-premier’s frozen assets

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Thailand's Supreme Court Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on Friday seized assets valued at 46 billion baht ($1.4 billion) from former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra out of the entire 76.6 billion baht ($2.3 billion) in his frozen assets, reported state news agency TNA.

In a verdict on the landmark case read out on national television and radio, the nine-judge court said "the majority of the judges rule that Mr Thaksin's fortune in the form of share dividends and portion of the sale of his family telecommunications company Shin Corp worth 46.373 billion baht is to be confiscated to the state treasury as they were accumulated as ill-gotten gains."

The judges said the remaining frozen assets worth 39.7 billion baht will be returned to Thaksin and his ex-wife Pojaman na Pombejra for the sake of fairness as the assets had been acquired before Thaksin became prime minister in 2001.

The court earlier ruled unanimously that the former premier and his ex-wife held shares through proxies and Thaksin himself abused his authority by issuing a cabinet resolution to favour his own telecom empire.

The judges ruled that Thaksin still holds shares through his children and another relative and retains his decision-making authority in Shin Corp, the telecommunications company founded by Thaksin himself.

The majority of judges also ruled that Thaksin had abused his authority to issue government policies converting mobile-phone operators' concession fee into excise tax which unfairly benefited Advanced Info Service (AIS), the flagship company of Shin Corp controlled by his family and the country's largest service provider.

Thaksin's action caused the state a loss of 60 billion baht in excise tax collections, the judges said. In its seven-hour verdict reading, the judges said that Mr Thaksin abused his power to benefit Shinsat, another unit of Shin Corp through inappropriate means including amendment of satellite concession contract and approval of the IPSTAR satellite, causing loss to the state.

The court also ruled that Mr Thaksin abused his power to favour his Shin
Satellite Plc through the approval of 4 billion baht ($127 million) loans to the Myanmar government to buy materials and satellite services from Shin Satellite, then controlled by his family.

Shortly after the court ended its verdict announcement, Thaksin addressed his Red Shirt supporters at opposition Puea Thai Party headquarters in Bangkok via a video link from Dubai, lamenting he is merely a  political victim.

Speaking on a TV show broadcast via his son's satellite television channel
that the court verdict was very political, the fugitive ex-premier said that he wore black suit to mourn for his stubborness that he did not listen to his children
and wife who asked him not to enter politics.

"When I listened to the verdict, I feel like the time the Thai Rak Thai Party was dissolved," said the ex-premier."The court was politically used."

The telecom tycoon-turned-prime minister apologised to his children for causing trouble to the family, while saying that what had happened to him is a lesson that a businessman should stay away from politics.

"Let me be the last political victim of the injustice," said Mr Thaksin. "There will not be any more political victims like me once the democracy and the checks and balances system are established in this country. I don't want to see the country's judicial institution in this way."

Thaksin however urged his Red Shirt supporters not to use any violence,
while also thanked them for not protesting on the verdict reading day.

Thaksin's ex-wife and children have not turned up at the court but are represented by defence lawyers.

The Shinawatra family lawyer said he will discuss with his clients before
making a decision whether or not to appeal the verdict.

Decisions by Thailand’s Supreme Court are final under the letter of the law, but under court procedures here defence attorneys may present new evidence relating to the case within 30 days.


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