Thai verdict due in ex-PM Thaksin case

Other News Materials 21 October 2008 09:06 (UTC +04:00)

Deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra faced a widely watched judgment day Tuesday when a court was scheduled to deliver the first verdict in a corruption case since his removal in a 2006 coup, reports CNN.

Thaksin, who is living in self-imposed exile in London, would not be present at court. He and his wife jumped bail in August and fled the country saying they could not get a fair trial in Thailand.

The Supreme Court's landmark ruling could make Thaksin the first politician to be convicted of corruption committed while prime minister, but it is not expected to provide closure to the country's deepening political crisis, which revolves around him.

Thaksin faces charges of abuse of power and conflict of interest for allegedly facilitating his wife's purchase of lucrative Bangkok real estate from a state agency in 2003, while he was prime minister.

If found guilty, Thaksin could face up to 23 years in prison. But analysts say he is unlikely to ever serve time behind bars.

Tight police presence was planned outside the Supreme Court to prevent possible clashes between Thaksin supporters and opponents, deputy Bangkok police chief Maj. Gen Amnauy Nimano told reporters.

Anti-government protesters have been camped at the prime minister's office compound in Bangkok for nearly two months, demanding that all vestiges of Thaksin's legacy be abolished.

The government of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has been virtually paralyzed by the protests. Somchai, who is Thaksin's brother-in-law, is accused of being his proxy.

The court case Wednesday stems from former first lady Pojaman Shinawatra's 772 million baht (US$23 million at current exchange rates) purchase of a 5.3-hectare (13.2-acre) plot of land in central Bangkok. It was estimated to be worth three times that amount.

She bought the land from the Financial Institutions Development Fund, a government agency set up to bail out debt-ridden banks.

Thaksin, who served as prime minister from 2001-2006, is accused of violating several laws, including one that bars prime ministers or their spouses from doing business with government agencies.

The 59-year-old former tycoon turned politician faces a string of court cases and investigations into alleged corruption and abuse of power during his six years in office.

Thaksin has repeatedly claimed he is innocent of all charges against him.