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Thai court seizes $1.5bn from former PM

February 27 2010 at 10:08 AM
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If Thailand can do this, why not PNG?

Thai court seizes $1.5bn from former PM

The Australian

27 February 2010

THAILAND is preparing for mass protests after the Supreme Court found fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra guilty of abusing his authority to benefit his family telecoms company Shin Corp and seized a $1.5 billion chunk of his fortune.

In a judgment expected to influence Thai politics for years, the highest court said the former leader had hidden his assets and abused his power to benefit his companies, and had therefore damaged the public interest.

The court ruled on whether Mr Thaksin's $2.4 billion in assets frozen during the 2006 military coup were corruptly gained.

The court said that Thaksin - a hero to the country's rural poor now living in Dubai - had concealed ownerships of telecoms shares, in the dispute over whether he had become "unusually rich" during his tenure.

The nine judges agreed unanimously that the ousted prime minister and his ex-wife Pojaman Pombejra held more than a billion Shin Corp shares during Mr Thaksin's period in office.

This contradicted the couple's claims they had sold the shares in the then-family owned company to their children and Mrs Thaksin's brother.

However, the court questioned the substance of the prosecution's case saying it was unclear.

Fearing an angry reaction and rioting from Mr Thaksin's red-shirt wearing grassroots supporters, Prime Minister Ahbisit Vejjajiva ordered tens of thousands of troops to keep the peace across Thailand.

As coup rumours were denied, 6000 soldiers were on duty spread out in Bangkok.

The government, which depends on the fragile support of the military for its future, said it wanted at all costs to avoid a repeat of the street fighting between Red Shirts and security forces last April. The capital was on high alert with schools, offices and some businesses around the Supreme Court and across the city closed ahead of the verdict.

A skilful user of social media, Mr Thaksin said yesterday on Twitter that his wealth was not the fruit of corruption, but of "hard work, brains and sweat". He faces two years in jail on corruption charges if he returns to Thailand.

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