'Takeover king' Pin ends exile, back in Bangkok

national August 30, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

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Ex-chief of Fin One returns as statute of limitations on his case has expired

Pin Chakkaphak, once dubbed Thailand’s “takeover king”, is reported to have quietly returned to Bangkok after living in exile for the past 15 years and seeing out the statutory limit on his case, according to two people familiar with his movements.

They confirmed that Pin had already made his way to Bangkok, but that not many people knew about his return.

“He came back a week ago because the 15-year statute of limitations on his case had expired,” one of the sources said.

Asked whether he knew about Pin’s return, Korn Chatikavanij, deputy leader of the Democrat Party, yesterday said he was unaware of the news.

He added that there were, however, no longer any legal charges pending against Pin.

Pin, former head of the Finance One Group, was made a fall guy in the bursting of the Thai financial bubble back in 1997. At the height of his business fortunes, the Finance One empire along with its finance and securities affiliations controlled somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent of all transactions in the Thai stock exchange.

This gave the group an enormous cutting edge against rival firms in terms of the breadth of its market share.

At least two finance ministers – Korn Chatikavanij and the incumbent, Kittiratt Na-Ranong – had a close affiliation or working relationship with Pin throughout most of the decade leading up to the baht’s flotation in 1997.

Korn was then head of JF Thanakom Securities, which was affiliated with Finance One Group, while Kittiratt was managing director of Securities One, the group's securities business arm.

In 1994, Finance One’s stock hit Bt214, bringing the company’s market capitalisation to around Bt88.5 billion. Pin and his family’s stake in the leveraged investment company amounted to about 5 per cent, equivalent to Bt4.42 billion.

After the collapse of the stock market in early 1997, Finance One stock crashed and became almost worthless after the authorities’ failure to merge it with Thai Danu Bank, which also failed.

Finance One’s ambition to become Southeast Asia’s largest group of finance companies had ended fatefully with the bursting of the Thai bubble.

Pin left Thailand during the ensuing panic and official intervention in the country’s finance companies and banking sector, which eventually led to a bail-out by the government to the tune of Bt1.4 trillion.

In September 1998, the Bank of Thailand filed criminal charges against Pin and two other top executives of Finance One – Termchai Pinyawatana (former managing director) and Samrarn Kanokwattanawan – in connection with a loan scandal dating back to 1992.

The whole financial-sector episode in fact produced three fall guys: Pin; Krirk-kiat Jalichandra, the former president of the defunct Bangkok Bank of Commerce; and Rakesh Saxena, former adviser of the same bank.

Krirk-kiat is now defending himself in the courts, having lost a series of cases filed against him by the Bank of Thailand.

Saxena, who left for Canada in 1996, eventually lost the extradition cases against him and is now held at Bangkok Remand Prison. He attends court to defend dozens of cases against him.

During his foreign sojourn, Pin, who was born in the United States and has a US passport, variously spent his time in London, the US and Hong Kong.

Knowing that Thai public prosecutors would be filing extradition charges against him, Pin chose to spend a key period in London, where he thought he had a high chance of successfully battling extradition proceedings because the UK justice system was more inclined to favour defendants.

Although he prevailed in the extradition case against him in 2001, Pin has had to wait until now – and the end of the 15-year statutory limit on his case – before he could return home.

Because of the expiry of the 15-year statute of limitation, Pin cannot be held liable for his role in the Finance One case, according to a senior Bank of Thailand official.

A few other Finance One executives’ prosecution had also ended prior to the Court of Appeals process, because public prosecutors decided not to pursue the case, said Satorn Topothai, senior director of the BOT’s Legal and Litigation Department. The statute of limitation ended in February.

The Criminal Court had sentenced two other Finance One executives, but the public prosecutors did not pursue their cases after they filed an appeal, and then decided to drop all of them.

A number of cases related to the Fin-One case are in the hearing process either at the lower court, the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. Many of the cases have not even been heard because the persons in question could not be brought in, said Sathorn, who did not identify anyone or give any details about the cases.

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