A CLOSE aide to Yaowapa Wongsawat, an influential figure in the Pheu Thai Party, and the aide’s wife have had more than Bt21 million of their assets seized by court order for being “unusually wealthy”.
The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders yesterday found that the former Pheu Thai Party MP for Chiang Mai, Kasem Nimmolrat, and his wife Duangsuda, could not convincingly explain the source of their wealth.
The court ordered the seizure of two of their land plots in Chiang Mai, together valued at Bt11.86 million, and shares in Ascon Construction PLC belonging to Duangsuda valued at Bt9.27 million. Altogether, assets valued at Bt21.1 million will be seized.
Kasem is also a former deputy chief of the Chiang Mai provincial administrative organisation.
In July last year, the National Anti-Corruption Commission indicted Kasem for allegedly being unusually wealthy – considered a euphemism for corruption. He was later sued by the Office of the Attorney General.
The court found that the two land plots, which are located in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim district, were purchased under Kasem’s name with two cashier’s cheques for Bt11 million. It was found that the cheques were issued by a commercial bank in Nonthaburi in December 2014.
The bank’s assistant manager told the court that a messenger bought the cheques using Bt11 million in cash. The messenger had earlier been assigned by certain people in the Wongsawat family to conduct financial transactions “regularly”.
The unnamed messenger was found to have worked in a company in which Yaowapa and her son are directors, but he had never worked for Kasem. So, the court was not convinced Kasem gave the Bt11 million to the messenger to buy cashier’s cheques.
Also, Kasem and his spouse each have multiple bank accounts in Chiang Mai. It was unclear why they would need to have someone purchase cashier’s cheques in Nonthaburi and carry them hundreds of kilometres to the northern city for the land purchase.
The court found that Kasem earned Bt817,556 in 2013 and Bt664,480 in 2014, while his wife had an income of Bt1.37 million in 2013 and Bt1.15 million in 2014. Their total revenues during those two years were insufficient to buy the land plots.
Also, no evidence was found that either Kasem or his wife had withdrawn money from their banks to purchase cashier’s cheques.
The court also found that Duangsuda’s 61.8 million shares in Ascon Construction, worth Bt9.27 million, were obtained unusually, as the shares were bought with an income earned from a sale of shares in Wyncoast Industrial Park PLC that the court earlier ruled had been obtained dishonestly.
Kasem was not present in the courtroom when the verdict was read. He was represented by his lawyer, who said he would ask his client if he wanted to appeal.
In March last year, the court sentenced Kasem to 12 months in jail for filing false information with the NACC regarding his assets and debts. The court also seized Bt168 million in assets belonging to him and his wife found to have been obtained dishonestly while Kasem was serving as Chiang Mai’s deputy PAO chief.
In April, Yaowapa’s husband, former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, said that she decided to leave politics for good but would not say why.
However, observers suggest that Yaowapa and her siblings from the Shinawatra family – particularly ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra – have retained their influence in Pheu Thai even though they hold no executive posts in the party.