Friday, February 26, 2010

Thailand - judges say Thaksin abused power for gain

[reuters] Judges reading a lengthy verdict on whether to seize $2.3 billion of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra family's assets said on Friday his policies benefited his family business, raising the likelihood his money will be confiscated.

Authorities say major violence is unlikely but have mobilised thousands of police and troops to pre-empt any backlash by supporters of the 60-year-old fugitive at the centre of a 5-year political crisis in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

Analysts expect the nine-judge Supreme Court to either seize all of the frozen wealth or to allow Thaksin to keep a portion of the assets. The latter scenario is seen as more favourable for markets in the short-run as it lessens the risk of an imminent showdown in Thailand's divisive colour-coded crisis.

"The partial seizure of the assets should be what financial markets prefer because both sides can claim victory," said Prapas Tonpibulsak, chief investment officer at Ayudhya Fund Management.

(For possible market reactions click on [ID:nSGE61I05K])

Prosecutors say Thaksin and his former wife, Potjaman na Pombejra, concealed ownership of shares in his family business Shin Corp SHIN.BK while in office from 2001 to 2006, and that he abused power by tailoring policies to benefit the company.

Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup and convicted in absentia of graft, has denied the charges from self-imposed exile in Dubai.

One judge said a Thaksin-era government policy to convert part of a telecommunications concessions fee into an excise tax "favoured Shin Corp at the expense of the state".

A judge also said Thaksin concealed his ownership of stock in Shin Corp, an argument seen as a main precondition for deciding there was a conflict of interest in government policies benefiting Shin Corp, a major telecommunications business.

"The way it's going, it looks highly likely he will have the whole lot confiscated and he'll not get anything back," said Jade Donavanik, dean of the faculty of law at Siam University.

"The judge has repeatedly said the stock was Thaksin's property. Him concealing assets is the entire foundation of this case, so it's likely they'll take it all."

A final ruling on whether to confiscate any or all of the assets was due later on Friday. Thailand's stock market reopens on Tuesday after a long weekend holiday.

Some analysts say a court verdict unfavourable to Thaksin, could add weight to allegations he is the victim of a political vendetta and may spark an angry response from supporters.

Thai judges say Thaksin abused power for gain

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