In a politically-loaded ruling, Criminal Court on Thursday found Pojaman Shinawatra - wife of coup-ousted premier Thaksin - guilty of tax evasion in a 1997 share transaction, court official said.
The heavily-guarded court, surrounded by some 2,000 Thaksin-supporters holding red roses, sentenced Pojaman to three years in jail for avoiding a tax bite amounting to 546 million baht (16.3 million dollars) on a share transfer to her step-brother Bannapot Damapong and her secretary Karnchanapa Honghern in 1997.
Bannapot was also sentenced to three years in jail and Karnchanapa to two years.
Thaksin and the couple's three children sat stony-faced throughout the ruling at the Bangkok court which was guarded by some 500 police. Pojaman had pleaded not guilty to the charge of tax evasion, claiming that the 738 million baht (22 million dollars) share transfer of Shinawatra Computer and Communications stock was a gift, not a business transaction.
The court said it had decided on a heavy sentence because both Pojaman and Bannapot were well-known public figures with responsibility to society.
Pojaman, who managed Thaksin's billion-dollar fortune and ran his business empire when he was prime minister between 2001 to 2006, is expected to appeal the ruling.
The court's verdict could pave the way for similar guilty rulings against Thaksin who faces at least three cases of malfeasance and abuse of power at the Supreme Court for Political Office Holders in the coming months. Thaksin, a former billionaire telecommunication tycoon who was prime minister between 2001 to 2006, was ousted by a military coup on September 19, 2006, on charges of corruption, dividing the nation and undermining democracy and the monarchy.
Thaksin remains one of Thailand's most controversial political figures.
Using populist policies Thaksin won the devotion of masses of rural and urban poor, but amid growing evidence of corruption and self-serving policies during his increasingly monopolistic rule, the Bangkok-based middle class and political elite turned against him in early 2006, ushering in his downfall.
(BangkokPost.com) - Potjaman Shinawatra, wife of ex-premier Thaksin, arrived at the Criminal Court on Thursday morning to hear tax evasion case verdict against her and two other defendants.
Accompanied her were Mr Thaksin and their children.
About 1,000 supporters arrived at the court around 6pm to show their support.
The courtroom has the capacity to hold only 120 people, so closed circuit television is installed outside the room to allow others to follow the case.
Security at the court is stepped up around the area.
The tax evasion case came before the Criminal Court on March 26 last year when the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) decided to indict Khunying Potjaman, her step-brother Bannapot Damapong and her secretary Karnchanapa Honghern for colluding in an effort to evade tax worth 546 million baht on the transfer of shares worth 738 million baht in Shinawatra Computer and Communication.
The indictment followed an investigation by the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC), now defunct.
More than 50 witnesses testified during the trial including Khunying Potjaman and Mr Bannapot who insisted the shares were meant as a gift, not a business transaction.
New case against Thaksin
The Supreme Court's section for political office holders on Wednesday agreed to open a new case against ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra on charges of abuse of power in pushing a state loan to Burma to help his family's telecoms empire.
The court set September 16 as the first day of the trial which will examine whether Thaksin abused his position as prime minister when he ordered the state-owned EXIM Bank to extend a loan of 1 billion baht (30 million dollars) to Burma's military regime in 2004 to develop its telecommunications infrastructure to the benefit of Shin Corp, then owned by the Shinawatra family.
Thaksin and his wife Pojaman are already on trial at the same court on charges of abusing power in the purchase of a plot of land on Ratchadaphisek road in Bangkok at a government auction in 2003.
On Monday, the Supreme Court also named Thaksin and one of 47 defendants in a malfeasance case involving the government lottery.
The Assets Examination Committee, established by the military junta that toppled Thaksin on September 19, 2006, pressed several charges against the former premier, before it was retired on June 30.
Thaksin, a billionaire telecommunication tycoon who was prime minister between 2001 to 2006, was ousted by military on charges of corruption, dividing the nation and undermining democracy and the monarchy.
To date Thaksin has yet to be proven guilty of wrong-doing, although three of his lawyers defending him and his wife in the Ratchadaphisek case were found guilty for contempt of court in what appeared to be a bungled bribery attempt of court officials earlier this year.
Thaksin remains one of Thailand's most controversial figures. Using populist policies Thaksin won the devotion of rural and urban poor, but amid growing evidence of corruption and self-serving policies as his monopoly on power increased, the Bangkok-based middle class and political elite turned against him.