Court strips former premier Thaksin of 1.4 billion dollars

Thailand is braced for possible demonstrations by supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra after Thailand's top court found him guilty of corruption and ruled that 1.4 billion dollars of his fortune, estimated at 2.3 billion, would be seized.


AFP - Thailand's highest court said Friday that it would confiscate more than half of Thaksin Shinawatra's 2.3-billion-dollar fortune after ruling that the fugitive former premier had abused his power.

After reading out a lengthy seven-hour verdict, the judges said the court would seize 46 billion baht (1.4 billion dollars) of the assets from the sale of his telecoms firm, which were frozen after the 2006 coup that toppled him.

Thousands of troops and police were deployed across the country for what the local media have dubbed "Judgement Day", amid fears that Thaksin's supporters would react violently to an unfavourable verdict.

"The majority of the judges rule that the wealth of Thaksin to be confiscated, from share dividends and part of the share sales... is altogether 46.37 billion baht," the judges said in their verdict.

Thaksin said in a video speech from exile in Dubai that the ruling was "very political" and a "joke for the world".

He is living abroad, mainly in Dubai, to avoid a two-year prison sentence for corruption which was imposed in absentia in 2008.

The government applied for the seizure of the proceeds from the sale of shares owned by Thaksin and his family to Singapore-based Temasek holdings in January 2006, a move that sparked mass protests and led to the putsch.

The judges said in the ruling read out on national television and radio that Thaksin had "used his power in favour of Shin Corp."

"The dividends and the sale of the shares in Shin Corp is wealth acquired through inappropriate means," they said.

The court ruled that Thaksin illegally hid his ownership of shares in Shin Corp during his two terms as prime minister, despite saying that they had transferred them to his children.

Thaksin had also issued a cabinet resolution in favour of the mobile telephone arm of his empire and his government set satellite policies that were "to benefit Shin Corp", they said.

His government additionally gave a loan to Myanmar in exchange for the neighbouring military-ruled state doing deals with his company, they said.

Around 450 police in riot gear guarded the court but there were only around a dozen protesters from his so-called "Red Shirt" movement outside, and fewer than 100 at another protest site in the capital.

The government says up to 35,000 police and soldiers are on alert. Security was also tight around Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's office and the government said it had prepared several safe houses for him.

Thaksin, the former owner of Manchester City football club, earlier denied the accusations against him and gave a speech to hundreds of Red Shirts at the headquarters of Thailand's main opposition party.

"I want to reaffirm that I and my family earned all of the money with our hard work, brains, and sweat. We have never been corrupt as accused," he said on Twitter early Friday.

Thailand's media has whipped up a frenzy ahead of the verdict, counting down to the day and reporting rumours of a possible coup against Vejjajiva.

The case goes to the heart of the rifts that have opened up in Thai society since the coup.

The Red Shirts, largely from his stronghold in Thailand's impoverished north and northeast, loved his populist policies and accuse the current government of being an unelected elite that has hijacked their democratic rights.

The tycoon's opponents in the Bangkok-based circles around the palace, military and bureaucracy accuse Thaksin of being corrupt, dictatorial and of threatening Thailand's widely revered monarchy.

The main Red Shirt movement says it will hold off mass protests until mid-March. Red Shirt riots at an Asian summit and in Bangkok in April 2009 left two people dead and scores injured.

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