Quick conclusion needed in King Power case

opinion November 20, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

Eyes of the world will be on judiciary to see how they deal with charges against Leicester city club owners 



It’s safe to say that Thai politics and business have immensely impacted English football, at the league level at least. It was ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who bought and then sold Manchester City, a major turning point for the then-average club that is becoming one of the biggest names in world football. King Power, Thailand’s duty-free giant, took over Leicester City when the club wasn’t even in the English Premier League, and bankrolled its dramatic, fairy-tale path to the country’s football summit.

What do Thaksin and King Power have in common? Legal problems in their own countries. King Power learned last week that corruption charges, which surfaced months ago, will likely go ahead, possibly threatening its ownership of Leicester City. The company is accused of having corruptly shortchanged the Thai government of Bt14 billion in connection with its duty-free business at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Legal authorities bearing down on King Power will have to see if the lapse in supposed revenue-sharing was intentional. To King Power, the whole issue stemmed from a contract dispute that the company was confident it would win.

According to The Guardian’s sport section, it is still unclear how the allegations would affect King Power’s ownership of Leicester City. Premier League rules prohibit a person convicted of a criminal offence or dishonesty from owning more than 30 per cent or being a director of a club. Yet only individuals have been impacted by the rules and there is no precedent of companies being charged or possibly standing to be charged.

Unlike Thaksin, who bought Manchester City when serious political trouble had already begun at home, King Power had been a glorious Thai connection to English football until just a few days ago, when a court ruled that the charges against the firm would go ahead. 

King Power is adamant that, despite what the court says, the allegations have yet to be formally accepted. All of a sudden, though, the firm’s hero status in world football has been threatened.

A trial might take place next year, if the charges are not finally dropped. To the company, which has vehemently denied the charges, the sooner this issue comes to a conclusion, the better. Its football team is struggling at the moment, meaning the fans could turn at any moment against the owners they so adored a couple of years ago. It is simply not good for a football club to have trouble both on the pitch and at the boardroom level.

All this means that everyone has to bite the bullet. 

The allegations have been lingering and the court procedures have been slow and what they have produced is subject to contrasting or unclear interpretations. This kind of news is not good for King Power, which has issued statements insisting it often abides by absolute business ethics.

The dispute doesn’t seem to be too complicated, meaning a quick ending one way or the other is very much possible. Yet Bt14 billion is not a small amount. King Power and its accusers have disagreement over percentage figures that are wide apart, which makes it rather unbelievable that lawyers involved in the contract had failed to spot potential problems. The longer the issue drags on, the more all involved will suffer – the company, as well as the country’s justice system, which is already under the global microscope.