THE SUPREME Court yesterday convicted the once-influential former MP “Kamnan Sia” and his wife for encroaching on state land in Kanchanaburi province.
In absentia, the couple was sentenced to four years and eight months in jail.
The highest court overturned a previous ruling by the Appeals Court, which accepted Pracha Pothipipit, 76, and his wife Khemaporn Tangjaiyen, 53, claim that they were unaware that the 50 rai belonged to the state and had purchased the plot innocently.
“It’s just an excuse,” the court |said when delivering the guilty verdict.
The charges date back to 2001 and 2002 when the couple used more than 50 rai (8 hectares) of state land in Kanchanaburi’s Bo Ploi district.
Pracha and Khemaporn have so far failed to report to court after being released on a Bt1-million bail each.
The bail was approved after they appealed against the guilty verdict delivered by the court of primary instance. In 2015, the court had convicted the couple and sentenced them to 10 years and 16 months. In 2016, the couple again did not appear when the Appeals Court meted out an acquittal. After public prosecutors appealed to the Supreme Court, it was initially scheduled to read its decision last month.
However, since the couple failed to appear, the court postponed the verdict reading to yesterday and issued arrest warrants for both defendants.
Since the couple failed to appear again, the Supreme Court delivered the guilty verdict in their absence and approved fresh arrest warrants for them.
Both Pracha and Khemaporn are also wanted in several other cases, including a conviction for colluding to fix bids. In that conviction, Pracha was given five years in jail and Khemaporn four years.
Pracha was also sentenced in separate previous cases of land encroachment. In one case, he was convicted of encroaching on 1,199 rai in Kanchanabri’s Dan Makham Tia district and in Ratchaburi’s Suan Phung district. For this offence, the final court verdict doled out two years and eight months in jail.