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Thaksin's lawyers imprisoned

Thaksin's legal team hit over Bt2-million 'gift'

The Supreme Court yesterday sentenced three attorneys for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Pojaman to six months in prison for attempted bribery.

The court ruled that the three had conspired to undermine the judiciary's reputation and integrity by stashing Bt2 million in cash in a snack box handed to a court official on June 10.

According to the presiding judge at yesterday's trial, the bribery attempt was "a serious matter" and "grave" action that insulted the highest court.

It was also likely have a "repercussion" on the on-going trial involving Thaksin and his wife in the Ratchadaphisek land purchase, in which the ex-premier is accused of abusing his power while in office for a sweetheart deal with the government.

Thana Tansiri, the lawyer who delivered the snack box stashed with Bt1,000 notes worth around Bt2 million, was not present at yesterday's sentencing.He had asked for a trial postponement, claiming health reasons, but the judges dismissed the request on grounds that his health problems didn't appear to be serious.

The court then ordered police to issue an arrest warrant for the lawyer.

The two other convicted lawyers were Pichit Chuenban and Suphasri Sriswat.

"I'm certain [of my innocence]," said Pichit, head of the legal team. Pichit said he didn't know why Thana, who is on his team, did not show up.

On June 10, Thana was found guilty of trying to bribe ML Thitipong Chompoonuch, a legal officer at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions, and his colleagues by handing the paper bag containing the snack box stuffed with some Bt2 million in cash.

According to the presiding judge, who read out the verdict, Thana told Thitipong: "These days I have to come [to the court] often and I feel sorry for the officials who have to work hard, so I have something for you people."

Thana had argued in his earlier testimony that it was a mistake, as his driver got the wrong box for him to deliver to the court official.

The "wrong" box contained money intended for a land purchase, while Thana's wife was said to have filled another bag with chocolate candy.

However, the judges ruled the argument unlikely, saying that if Thana really intended to give chocolate he could have done it in the open in the presence of other officials, not privately with Thitipong alone.

According to the judges, Thana didn't mention any other "chocolate bag" while court staff took photographs of the snack box filled with cash.

The court believed Pichit and Suphasri were also "working closely" with Thana as all of them appeared at the court on that day.

"They kept talking to one another prior to Thaksin's and Pojaman's arrival at the court, and thus they must be regarded as one team."

When Pichit learned about the return of the snack box, he only made a phone call to Thitipong to apologise and didn't appear to have reprimanded Thana. "It shows that they collaborated with one another ... were aware [of the matter] and divided their role in this attempted bribery," the court said.

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