A lawyer for ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra accused the Assets Examination Committee (AEC) yesterday of double standards - for not allowing Thaksin to prove ownership before seizing assets worth Bt76 billion.
A panel of nine judges led by presiding judge Somsak Netmai began hearing a case in the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders yesterday. The Attorney General has asked the court to confiscate Bt76 billion worth of assets in the names of Thaksin and his family on the grounds that he was unusually rich and earned the assets through abuse of power.
Two defence witnesses - Chatthip Thantaprasat, an authorised lawyer for Thaksin and Kanchanapa Honghern, the personal secretary of Khunying Pojaman Damapong, Thaksin's ex-wife, testified in the first examination of witnesses.
Chatthip said Thaksin had been denied justice because the AEC rejected his request to extend investigation time so more than 100 witnesses could be summoned to explain about his assets.
He claimed the AEC practised a double standard by giving several months for people allegedly involved in the two-and three-digit lottery case, and the rubber sapling case, to defend themselves.
He also accused the AEC of violating the law by failing to allow Thaksin to prove ownership of his assets.
He said the AEC appointed a panel made up of people who were adversaries of the former PM, such as Klanarong Chantik, Kaewsan Atibodhi, Banjerd Singkaneti.
The AEC also lodged the complaint to seize Thaksin's assets when the statue of limitations had expired, he claimed. According to the National Counter Corruption Commission, a complaint must be filed within two years of a political office holder leaving his post. Thaksin had left the premier's post on July 5, 2005, the lawyer claimed.
He dismissed the AEC's reasoning that it had taken into consideration the period Thaksin held office for a second term.
Kanchanapa testified that she had worked for a private company for 10 years before joining Shinawatra Computers Co Ltd as personal secretary for Pojaman in 1987. She said she quit that position in April 2006.
She was assigned by Pojaman to take care of her work, financial assets, shares, and personal matters such as looking after her three children. The Shinawatra family started their business in silk, movies, apartments, land rent and later set up Shinawatra Computer to operate a computer rental business.
Thaksin, Pojaman and Bannaphot Damapong were the shareholders since 1990 and listed the company on the stock market as Shin Corporation Public Co Ltd. The three held 17 million shares worth Bt438 each or Bt6 billion in total. The company raised capital three times - in 1991, 1994 and 1999. Every time the three would buy more shares to maintain the same ratio of equity holdings.
She said in 1993 the top market price for Shin Corp was Bt1,400 per share and the three held 34 million shares. If they had sold the shares, they could have made Bt50 billion. She said if the family had sold 134 million shares to Singapore's Temasek Holdings at the same price, they would have made at least Bt200 billion but they sold the shares at Bt49 per share, a price deemed appropriate.
She said they decided to sell a huge amount of shares as they needed money for investment, because Shin had several subsidiaries that operated telecommunications, a satellite business, commercial aviation, a credit business and a television station, which need huge investment.
Kanchanapa also testified that Ample Rich Investment, registered in the British Virgin Islands, had registered capital of US$50,000 and paid-up capital of US$1. Thaksin was sole shareholder in the firm. He later transferred his shares to his son Panthongtae and his daughter Pinthongta. She said she and the two children later became the company directors.
The company did not operate any business but was set up as a foreign holding company on the US Nasdaq stock market.
She insisted she presented all documents and revealed details about all of Thaksin and his family's assets but said the AEC still accused them of concealing assets.
She said most of the family assets were transferred to Pojaman's account at the Siam Commercial Bank Ratchayothin office and some transferred to Thaksin's accounts.
The court scheduled July 23 for the second witness examination at 9.30am. Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's younger sister, and Somboon Kuptimnat, who was authorised by Pojaman to purchase a plot of land near Ratchadapisek Road, are due to testify as defence witnesses next week.