Thaksin's assets frozen
AEC orders lock on all accounts of former premier and his wife, as well as proceeds of Shin Corp sale
The Assets Exami-nation Committee (AEC) yesterday ordered a freeze on all bank accounts in Thailand held by former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Pojaman, as well as 21 other local accounts in which the proceeds of last year's sale of Shin Corp shares to Singapore's Temasek Holdings were deposited.
The AEC's or-ders, issued a day after Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont de-nounced "massive corruption" under Thaksin, led to an angry reaction from the deposed premier, who threatened legal action against the committee for its "unfair" decision, according to his legal adviser Noppadon Pattama.
AEC secretary Kaewsan Atibodhi insisted that the order was not politically motivated.
"There has been no political reason to influence our decision," he said, adding that it was pure coincidence that the asset freeze was ordered at a time when street protests were being held in support of Thaksin and against the junta that ousted him.
The AEC decided to have the assets frozen after gathering sufficient evidence to believe that Thaksin had committed malfeasance and became unusually wealthy, and after some Bt20 billion had already been withdrawn from the 21 accounts holding the Bt73 billion from the Shin Corp sale, Kaewsan said.
He said the asset freeze was not a punishment but rather a measure to "protect the assets" involved in the cases against Thaksin and his associates.
In its orders released yesterday, the panel outlined five corruption cases against Thaksin and his associates, as well as six instances of "behaviour" while he was in power that led to him being labelled "unusually wealthy".
Kaewsan said the AEC would also try to track down the missing Bt20 billion, adding that the panel already had information on the bank accounts that originally held this money.
He said the AEC was empowered to freeze assets under Announcement No 30 of the Council for Democratic Reform, which overthrew Thaksin's government last September.
Those affected by the freeze orders could appeal to the committee within 60 days and it would repeal the freeze on their accounts if they were found to have nothing to do with the alleged wrongdoing, he said.
He said the decision on whether the frozen assets would eventually be seized as ill-gotten wealth would rest with the courts.
Kaewsan said there was about Bt53 billion in the 21 bank accounts in question, while the number of accounts held by Thaksin and Pojaman in various commercial banks and other financial institutions was not certain.
However, he believed the money held in Thaksin's and Pojaman's accounts would not exceed the amount stated in Thaksin's mandatory asset declaration to the National Counter Corruption Commission as a member of the government.
The AEC's order identified all the 21 frozen accounts by number and bank branch but did not identify the holders except in the case of two accounts held separately by Panthongtae and Pinthongta Shinawatra, Thaksin's son and daughter.
However, Kaewsan said those affected by the freeze included Pojaman's brother Bhanapot Damapong and Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's younger sister.
Seventeen of the accounts are with Siam Commercial Bank and the other four with Bangkok Bank.
Kaewsan announced the freeze order along with AEC chairman Nam Yimyaem and spokesman Sak Korsaengruang at a press conference called in the evening after a six-hour meeting of the panel.
Copies of the AEC's two orders on the asset freeze and details of its resolution on the matter were distributed to reporters.
Thaksin described the asset-freeze orders as "unfair" and vowed to "fight to the end", his lawyer Noppadon said.
"The order is not fair. I will bring the case to all courts - criminal and civil," Thaksin was quoted as saying.
Noppadon, who also acts as Thaksin's spokesman, said the ex-premier had talked to him by phone after the AEC's orders were announced.
Meanwhile, Jatuporn Phrompan, organiser of the pro-Thaksin PTV, claimed the orders did not stem from the legal process. He believed the decision to freeze assets was influenced by the growing anti-coup protests, which the junta claim are financed by Thaksin.
"They made a mistake by freezing Thaksin's assets because more and more people will join the protests [against the coup makers]," he said.
Commenting on the impact of the AEC's move, Marco Sucharitkul, president of JP Morgan Securities (Thailand) and the Foreign Brokers' Club, said the asset freeze could be viewed in two ways.
Investors could see it as progress by the government in solving the prolonged political problem, and this might affect the stock market positively.
On the other hand, investors might believe that political uncertainty would increase as supporters of Thaksin might come out to express disagreement with the asset freeze. But this was expected to have only a short-term impact, while the focus in the medium-term was still the new constitution, he said.