Monday, August 25, 2008

Thai prosecutors want Thaksin's billions seized

International Herald Tribune

Monday, August 25, 2008

BANGKOK, Thailand: Thai prosecutors demanded Monday that the Supreme Court seize US$2.2 billion in cash and assets of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his family as part of a continuing corruption investigation.

The assets have been frozen since shortly after Thaksin was ousted in a September 2006 coup by military leaders who accused him of widespread corruption and of undermining the country's democracy by consolidating too much power.

Waiyawuth Lohtrakul, deputy chief of the Attorney General's office, said prosecutors filed a lawsuit asking the court to confiscate those assets and determine how much was earned through Thaksin's media business and how much was the result of corruption while he was in office from 2001-2006.

"We allege the defendant wrongfully enriched himself while he was in the office," Waiyawuth said.

Thaksin and his family members have denied any wrongdoing, and he currently is in exile in Britain.

Soon after Thaksin's ouster, the Assets Examination Committee was established to investigate wrongdoing during his reign. One of the first things it did was freeze Thaksin's 76 million baht (US$2.2 billion) in assets now being sought by the Thai authorities.

Thaksin was abroad during the coup and initially stayed in exile. He returned earlier this year, saying he wanted to face justice and clear his name. However, he fled earlier this month to Britain arguing that he feared for his safety and could not get a fair trial in Thailand.

The Supreme Court has issued arrest warrants for Thaksin and his wife. But Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has said he has no plans to seek their extradition — usually a lengthy and complicated process.

Thaksin, 59, faces several court cases and investigations into alleged corruption and abuse of power during his five years in office. He has repeatedly claimed he is innocent of all charges.

On July 31, the criminal court convicted his wife of evading millions of dollars in taxes and sentenced her to three years in prison. She was released on bail.

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