THAKSIN


Return of Thaksin’s former wife ‘not politically motivated’
BANGKOK: The unexpected return to Thailand of the former wife of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra is not politically motivated, her spokesman said yesterday amid continuing turmoil in the country

Pojaman, travelling under her maiden name “Damapong,” returned to Bangkok with her son and daughter from Hong Kong on Friday after fleeing the kingdom in August following her three-year jail sentence for tax evasion.
Local media yesterday speculated her return was linked to the formation of a new government, after the ruling People Power Party (PPP) was disbanded by a court decision on Tuesday that also ousted premier Somchai Wongsawat—Thaksin’s brother-in-law.
But her spokesman, Phonthep Thepkanjana, said: “Her return has nothing to do with politics.”
“As far as I know she came back to take care of her mother who will undergo an operation soon,” he added.
He said Pojaman would await a ruling from the appeals court on her tax evasion case. Pojaman, her brother and secretary were convicted in July of tax evasion and released on bail pending appeal.
“The case is in the appeals process... so she will not have to do anything but wait for the verdict,” Phonthep said.
Last month Pojaman, 52, and Thaksin, 59, divorced after 32 years of marriage, with family friends claiming they remained close and it was a “divorce on paper” for practical or economic reasons.
The couple had been living in exile since August to avoid jail sentences in their homeland but last month had their British visas cancelled, leaving them searching for a new refuge.
Former PPP members were at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport to greet Pojaman before she was whisked away through a private exit on Friday.
A new party, Pheu Thai, set up to regroup MPs from the PPP, which is filled with Thaksin’s allies, is due to elect a party leader today.
But the interim government has cancelled a parliamentary session set for tomorrow to choose a new prime minister, as uncertainty continues to cloud Thailand’s political future.
The country has been rocked by months of protests aimed at toppling Somchai and his government by demonstrators who say the administration is a corrupt puppet of Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in September 2006.
This week’s constitutional court ruling provided a face-saving way for the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to abandon an eight-day blockade of Suvarnabhumi airport
. –  2008 December 8   AFP

Thaksin's wife and her brother get 3 years' jail

The wife of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and her brother were sentenced to three years in prison for evading taxes, the first conviction in a string of cases filed against the ex-premier's family since he was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Pojaman Shinawatra, 50, and her brother Bhanapot Damapong were met by cheering supporters at Bangkok Criminal Court before yesterday's verdict was read. The siblings were accused of collaborating and conspiring to evade tax and providing false testimony and documentation on the 1997 transfer of 4.5 million shares of a company formerly controlled by the family. They were granted bail and can appeal the decision, the court said.

The convictions may lead to more confrontations between Thaksin's friends and foes after the Supreme Court accepted two new cases against him this week. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej submitted a cabinet reshuffle list for royal endorsement yesterday in a bid to calm protesters who say he's beholden to Thaksin.

'The decision will increase political pressure,' said Jade Donavanik, dean of the law school at Siam University. 'One group will want more convictions, while the other will want the legal processes against Thaksin to stop.'

The benchmark SET Index has fallen 24 per cent since street protests began on May 25, and the baht has fallen 4.5 per cent. Demonstrators, who want Thaksin behind bars, are led by Sondhi Limthongkul, a former business associate of the ex-premier who fell out with him in 2005.

Bhanapot, former chairman of Shin Corp, a Thai telco, received 4.5 million shares of the firm valued at 738 million baht (S$30 million) on Nov 7, 1997, from Pojaman's secretary, who was also convicted yesterday and sentenced to two years in jail.

Bhanapot said that the transfer shouldn't be subject to tax because the shares were a wedding gift from Pojaman, an argument the court said yesterday 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. All three were released on bail of five million baht each 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. The trial attracted a huge security presence, with 200 police and guards surrounding the court.

The case is one of a dozen corruption claims. He and his wife are also set to testify in August at another corruption trial, in which Pojaman is accused of using her husband's influence to buy a plot of prime Bangkok real estate from a government agency at one-third its estimated value. -  2008 August 1 Bloomberg, AFP

Thaksin's wife released on bail

The wife of Thailand's ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra was released on bail on Tuesday, after she returned to the kingdom to defend corruption charges against her, the Supreme Court said in a statement.

Pojaman Shinawatra was released on bail of five million baht (US$149,000), and ordered not to leave the country without the court's permission, said the statement issued after a hearing that lasted less than an hour.

The court also set Jan 23 as the opening date for her trial on charges of using her husband's political influence to buy prime Bangkok real estate from a government agency at one-third its estimated value.

Ms Pojaman Shinawatra, 51, arrived on a Thai Airways flight from Hong Kong, an immigration official said, after spending the last six months with her husband overseas where she avoided arrest warrants over the corruption claims.

One of Dr Thaksin's top political allies, Chaowarin Latthasaksiri, met her at the airport and said she was taken to a VIP immigration room to be presented with the charges and the warrant against her.

Deputy national police chief Watcharaphon Prasarnratchakit said that police then escorted her to the Supreme Court to hear the charges before judges.

Dr Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile since the military toppled his government in a bloodless coup in September 2006, but says he plans to return to the kingdom by April once a new government is installed.

His allies emerged from elections last month just shy of a majority in parliament, but the military-appointed Election Commission has opened dozens of vote fraud investigations that threaten their ability to form a new government.

Dr Thaksin has also been charged in the case, and both have denied any wrongdoing.

Their youngest daughter Paetongtarn, a university student in Bangkok, was seen waiting for her mother at the court.

Both Ms Pojaman and Dr Thaksin also face separate criminal charges accusing them of fraudulent filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission over the 2003 listing of a property company.

Ms Pojaman, her step-brother Banpot Damapong and her personal secretary Kanchanapa Honghern also face additional criminal charges of tax evasion. --    2008 January 9  AFP

Thaksin's wife arrested upon arrival  
Pojaman Shinawatra later released on bail of 5m baht

As the first signs of improved fortunes for Thailand's ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra appeared with the possible formation of a sympathetic government, his wife Pojaman returned to the country to insist on her innocence.

Ms Pojaman, who is said to have a strong influence on her husband, was placed under arrest on charges of false stock disclosure and official misconduct as soon as she landed at Suvarnabhumi airport. She was later released later on bail of five million baht (S$240,000).

She and Dr Thaksin are both charged with corruption involving the purchase of a plot of prime Bangkok real estate. Investigators said that Ms Pojaman used her husband's political influence to buy the land from a government agency at one-third of its estimated value. The Shinawatras said that the auction of the land involved open bidding.

The two are also accused of making fraudulent filings to securities regulators in 2003 when they listed a property firm on the local exchange.

Ms Pojaman, her stepbrother Banpot Damapong and her personal secretary Kanchanapa Honghern also face additional criminal charges of tax evasion. Conviction on any of the charges could result in prison sentences.

Her return comes at a time when the party which gained the most seats in the Dec 23 elections is struggling to form a coalition government. The People's Power Party (PPP) - held to be sympathetic to the former prime minister - has been under strain as 65 of its 233 winning candidates have not been endorsed by the Election Commission.

Meanwhile, Dr Thaksin said that he would return to Thailand in the near future to join his wife and children.

'I have long said that I will return to Thailand to prove my innocence and to fight for justice, but I do not want to trigger any conflicts that would worsen the situation,' he said in a statement on his website.

'I want to reassure you that when the appropriate time comes, I will return to Thailand to prove the innocence of myself and my family.'


Ms Pojaman:
Seen here arriving at a Bangkok court yesterday, she was earlier arrested at the airport on charges of false stock disclosure and official misconduct

Ms Pojaman was dressed in a black suit, marking her participation in the official mourning for the death of the elder sister of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Dr Thaksin issued a two-page letter to his supporters, giving reasons for his wife's return and emphasising the couple's loyalty to the King, the world's longest reigning monarch.

'As a Thai, there is no country which can equally give Thais happiness like Thailand under His Majesty's grace,' he said.

'A loyal subject such as Khunying Pojaman wishes to return to Thailand to lead her life with her family peacefully under His Majesty's grace.'

Analysts said that her return would give a boost to the PPP as it tries to fight off the vote fraud claims while wooing partners for a coalition government.

'The purpose of her return is to boost moral support for PPP as the party is having difficulties,' the news agency AFP quoted Ukrist Pathmanand, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University, as saying.

'By merely showing up in Bangkok, Pojaman was directly offering her support for the PPP.'   - 2008  January 9    SINGAPORE BUSINESS TIMES

Thailand's Supreme Court yesterday issued arrest warrants for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife after they failed to appear before the court to hear charges against them. The case involves accusations of malfeasance relating to the purchase by Mr Thaksin's wife of a plot of land that was under the management of the Bank of Thailand (BOT).
Wanted in Thailand: Mr Thaksin and his wife failed to appear in court to hear charges filed against them

'The court has reason to believe that they (Mr Thaksin and his wife) are evading prosecution,' Supreme Court judge Thonglor Choam-ngam said when announcing the issuance of the arrest warrants.

The action was taken after the court began the first hearing in the 772 million baht (S$37.7 million) Ratchadaphisek land purchase case without the presence of Mr Thaksin and his wife, named as defendants in the case.

Mr Thaksin's lawyer attended the hearing on behalf of his clients and urged the Supreme Court to extend the deadline by another 30 days, because of security fears for the ex-prime minister.

The judges then issued arrest warrants for Mr Thaksin and his wife Pojaman, saying their excuse did not justify their failure to appear in court.

Mr Thaksin is at present living in Britain, where his wife and children have recently joined him.

The case, which has been the only one in which the military-appointed government has so far proceeded against Mr Thaksin or his wife, involves a piece of land which the Financial Institutions Development Fund, an arm of the Bank of Thailand, auctioned off to various bidders in an open and transparent manner. The land was sold in 2003 to Ms Pojaman.

The Asset Examination Committee (AEC), the government-appointed body which is investigating the cases, says Ms Pojaman should not have taken part in the bidding, as her husband was in public office.

Mr Thaksin was charged by the AEC with abusing his position as PM to influence the land deal, which his wife was able to close for a sum apparently below market value.

The court has set a Sept 25 date for a further hearing of the case.

The issue of the arrest warrant could also mean that Thailand may soon seek the extradition from Britain of Mr Thaksin and his wife, Prime Minister's Office Minister Thirapat Serirangsan said.

There is an extradition treaty between Thailand and Britain and 'it is possible that the Office of the Attorney-General may take steps to ask the British government to extradite Mr Thaksin', Mr Thirapat said.

Mr Thaksin's legal team earlier issued a statement reaffirming that he and his wife would definitely not return to Thailand before the outcome of the general election, whose date has not yet been set.

'Mr Thaksin and Ms Pojaman will fight their charges after the election,' the statement said. - SINGAPORE BUSINESS TIMES   15 August 2007

Arrest warrant out for ex Thai PM

Thailand's Supreme Court issued arrest warrants for exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife on corruption charges on Tuesday.

The nine-judge panel ordered him to be produced in court by September 25, the starting date of the trial of Thaksin and his wife, following his failure to meet Tuesday's deadline for a voluntary appearance.

Extradition proceedings would be considered if Thaksin, who has kept a high profile by buying English Premier League club Manchester City from his exile home in London, did not appear by the new deadline, prosecutor Seksan Bangsomboon told reporters.

Thaksin, ousted in a bloodless coup last year, and his wife Pojaman, face charges summarized as "misconduct of a government official and violation of a ban on state officials being party to transactions involving public interests".

They stem from Pojaman's 772 million baht ($22.3 million) purchase of land in central Bangkok while he was prime minister from a unit of the Bank of Thailand in a 2003 auction at which other bidders dropped out.

The couple has denied the charges and Thaksin, who has said frequently to general disbelief in Thailand that he has quit politics, says he will not return to Thailand until democracy is restored.

Thaksin's lawyers argued the land case should be postponed to next year, or 30 days after a new government took office following a general election promised for December.

They argued Thaksin could not get a fair trial with the military in charge, with calling defense witnesses problematical, and his personal safety could not be guaranteed.

The nine-judge panel ordered him to be produced in court by September 25, the starting date of the trial of Thaksin and his wife, following his failure to m

Thaksin's return before the election could also cause trouble between supporters who swept him to two landslide election victories and opponents, they said.

"I have talked with my two clients and we agree that the best timing for them to return to fight the case is after the election," Thaksin's lawyer, Pichit Chuenban, said after the ruling.

"We reiterate that the current situation is still not good for their safety and we have no desire to see disunity in the country." If convicted, Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire banned from politics for five years after his party was found guilty of electoral fraud, could face 10 years in jail and a 60,000 baht ($1,800) fine.

The charges stem from a ruling by the Asset Examination Committee set up after the coup that Thaksin and Potjaman broke anti-graft laws preventing politicians in office doing business deals with state agencies.

The committee wants the court to annul the deal, return the land to the central bank and confiscate the money involved.

The military-appointment government of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont puts a new draft constitution to a referendum on August 19 and promises to hold a general election by the end of the year - REUTERS  14 August 2007

Thaksin a billionaire no more

Ousted prime minister and former telecoms tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra is no longer counts among Thailand's billionaires since the military froze his assets, Forbes said Friday.

Thaksin, once Thailand's fourth richest business man with a fortune of US$2.2 billion (HK$17.16 billion), is now thought to be worth around US$300 million.

He "fell from the billionaire perch after facing frozen assets, multimillion- dollar fines and other court decisions against his family," says Forbes.

The military, which overthrew Thaksin last September, froze at least US$1.52 billion of family assets.

Since the coup, Thaksin has remained in exile and now lives in London with wife Pojaman.

On Tuesday, Thailand's Supreme Court agreed to hear corruption charges against the couple. - AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE    14 July 2007

HONG KONG

Thaksin hits Peak

Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister of Thailand, was the purchaser of the luxury townhouse on The Peak recently sold by Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016) - a property whose price tag of HK$41,000 per square foot set a record in Asia's luxury property market, sources told The Standard.

A source close to the deal said it was billionaire Thaksin who paid an astounding HK$210 million for the 5,100 sq ft townhouse, referred to as House 1 at Severn 8, The Peak.

Two other sources also named Thaksin as the buyer, whose identity was previously unknown.

"It is obvious the seller is pushing the price to the limit," said a source who has been in the property industry for more than 30 years.

"It would require someone who either loves the property very much or who does not care about money at all to make the call of buying it for more than HK$41,000 per square foot."

The Severn 8 development is considered one of the biggest projects in Hong Kong in terms of size and luxury.

Thaksin's townhouse - complete with swimming pool - does not stand on its own but is connected to other units and, therefore, was considered unlikely to fetch such a premium price.

Local media had previously reported only that the property was sold to an unnamed "businessman."

"The price shows how good the quality of House 1 is in terms of its geographic location and how quiet the living environment is," Midland Realty sales director Gary Yeung Wing-kin said after the deal.

Before the sale, local media had speculated that the house was reserved for Martin Lee Ka-shing, co-vice chairman of Henderson Land (0012) and younger son of company chairman Lee Shau-kee, to move into after his recent HK$100 million wedding to model and actress Cathy Chui Chi-kay.

The price Thaksin paid for the property was a record for the luxury market - not just in Hong Kong, but for the whole of Asia.

The businessman-turned-politician has been spotted in Hong Kong shopping with his wife several times recently.

Thaksin has been in exile since a military coup took control of Thailand last September while he was out of the country on a diplomatic visit.

Since the coup, he has been living mostly in London.

SHKP bought the land for its 22-house project on Severn Road for HK$8,353 per square foot of developable gross floor area at a government land auction in February 2000.

Thaksin's purchase price is the latest in a string of records for the 8 Severn Road development.

Houses 6 and 7 sold for HK$36,500 psf, or a total of HK$320 million, in November 2006 - then a record for the luxury market in Hong Kong.

That mark was surpassed by House 5 in the same development, which sold in March 2007 for HK$38,800 psf, or HK$200 million- HONG KONG STANDARD     13 June 2007

 


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