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Is AIS truly Thaksin-free?

Is AIS truly free of Thaksin & Co's ownership and influence, as InTouch, its parent firm, contends? The truth is very hard to discern.

The AIS website shows that Shin Corp and Singtel Strategic Investments own 63 per cent, and that no individual is among the top 10 AIS shareholders. So what InTouch claims is correct - but has it dug deep enough? Let's look at Shin Corp as an example. Shin's website shows that Cedar Holdings and Aspen Holdings own 96 per cent of the firm - and Cedar and Aspen are not publicly listed. Bloomberg lists Cedar Holdings as being Thailand-based, but gives no information as to shareholders. Aspen Holdings is a US-based insurance firm, but, again, Bloomberg gives no information as to shareholders.

So Thaksin might or might not be indirectly holding a stake in AIS. I think the only way to tell for sure would be to get the firms involved to authorise their company registrar to issue a certified document identifying their ultimate shareholders - which might be several levels deeper than Cedar or Aspen.

In the absence of such documentation, what should you do if you're an AIS customer? Consider that, a few days after Thaksin raised the foreign-ownership limit on telecom companies, he sold much of Shin to Temasek Holdings of Singapore. How coincidental, how convenient, how unethical. Consider that it is unchallenged that his maid, driver, etc, held billions of baht of his assets in their names, illegally reducing his income tax bill and, in effect, stealing from you, dear reader, and me. How convenient, how unethical. Might he still have a share in AIS, albeit indirectly? Think deviously, as he did.

Burin Kantabutra

Bangkok


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