SONDHI LIMTHONGKUL, a former media magnate and controversial political activist, was sentenced by the Supreme Court to 20 years in jail for forging corporate documents to solicit a Bt1.07-billion loan from Krung Thai Bank back in 1997.
Tough sentences were also handed down to Yupin Chanthana and Saowaluk Thiranuchanyong, former directors and executives of Manager Media Group, while Suradej Mukayangkul, another former director, was given two years and six months in jail.
The Supreme Court said managers of listed companies must have good corporate governance and that the wrongdoing was serious – so there was no ground for a more lenient sentence or probation, given that the defendants had used forged documents to obtain bank loans six times, for a total of Bt1.07 billion over a period of one year. In this context, the defendants deserved to get a harsh sentence for multiple counts of wrongdoing.
Back in 1997, Sondhi and other former executives violated the Securities and Exchange Commission Act by forging a document, saying it was resolution of Manager Media Group’s board of directors to guarantee the Bt1.07-billion bank loan. Judges said they had misled the listed company’s shareholders and other investors in the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
The lower court sentenced Sondhi and Yupin each to 85 years in jail, while Saowaluck got a 65-year sentence for violating several articles of the SEC law. But confessions by the defendants led to a maximum jail term of 20 years each.
Sondhi was a prominent political activist prior to the 2006 coup that ousted the Thaksin Shinawatra government.
In 2005, Sondhi joined forces with other activist groups to launch a campaign under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to destabilise the Thaksin government, while promoting opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as an alternative national leader.
The PAD had a big anti-Thaksin demonstration planned on Sept 20, 2006 and speculation was rife that there would be bloodshed – clashes between PAD “yellow shirts” and supporters of Thaksin.
However, the military led by Army commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin staged a coup on the evening of September 19 to remove the Thaksin government while the PM was on an overseas trip. In 2009, Sondhi survived a dramatic gun attack while on his way to a morning TV programme.
Later, in October 2009, Sondhi was chosen as leader of a political party, but he quit the following year to continue the PAD movement.