Thailand's Supreme Court on Friday night ruled that nearly $1.4 billion worth of frozen assets belonging to the deposed Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinwatra, would now “become property of the State”.
And, shortly after noon on Saturday, the Thai government said “life and businesses in Thailand continue as usual, despite concerns over possible incidents” of protest against the verdict in Mr. Thaksin's “assets seizure case”.
Overthrown in a bloodless military coup when he was abroad in September 2006, Mr. Thaksin has been living in self-imposed exile, except for a brief period when he returned home. That led to a suit, unrelated to this assets case, being filed against him. Later, he jumped bail in that case while travelling abroad again. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced in absentia.
Monitoring the live-telecast of Friday's ruling from his base in exile, Mr. Thaksin told his supporters through a video-link, that he had in fact expected the verdict. He said nobody gave him money when he, as Prime Minister, strove to improve the lives of the Thai people. In previous comments, he described himself as a true democrat and asserted his “innocence”.
In the latest ruling, which took nearly eight hours to read, the nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Offices upheld the Attorney-General's contention that Mr. Thaksin had, as Prime Minister for two terms, resorted to “abuse of power” that benefited him.
Pronouncing on several instances of such “abuse”, the Court ruled that Mr. Thaksin was the “actual owner” of nearly 48 per cent of Shin Corp. It was determined that he sold these shares to a Singapore firm for over 76 billion baht or $2.3 billion. The Court, in a majority ruling, said over 46 billion baht should be turned over to the exchequer. It would be “unfair” to seize the rest, as he acquired that before becoming Prime Minister, it was ruled.