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NEWS UPDATES 13 January 2010

Thai court to rule on Thaksin corruption case in February

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Thailand's Supreme Court will next month decide whether authorities can seize fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's frozen assets worth $2.2 billion, AFP quoted officials as saying Tuesday.

Prosecution and defence lawyers have 30 days to submit their closing statements after the court finished hearing evidence in the case, said Sekesan Bangsomboon, director general of the department of special litigation.

"The court has set Febuary 26 as the day for the ruling," he told AFP.

Twice-elected Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and a committee appointed by the military junta that ruled Thailand for the subsequent 14 months froze his 76-billion-baht fortune.

The assets represent most of the profits his family earned when they sold his Shin Corp. telecoms empire in January 2006 to Singapore's state-linked investment firm Temasek Holdings.

The sale sparked public uproar, bringing tens of thousands of anti-Thaksin protesters into the streets, which led to the coup. Prosecutors argue the Shin Corp. shares belonged to Thaksin, and that he broke the law by not paying tax on the sale.

The court began hearing the case in July last year.

Thaksin is currently living abroad, mostly in Dubai, after the same court in 2008 sentenced him in absentia to two years in prison in a conflict of interest case that he says is politically motivated.

He was found guilty of helping his wife Pojaman, from whom he is now divorced, to purchase prime Bangkok real estate from the government at about one-third the land's appraised value.

Thaksin has continued to stir up political unrest in Thailand from abroad, with thousands of his so-called "Red Shirt" supporters protesting Monday at the house of a royal adviser accused of involvement in the coup.

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