Tax officials get jail term for Shin share sale

Tax officials get jail term for Shin share sale

Former deputy finance minister Benja Louischaroen (centre) leaves the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Thursday after being released on bail following a three-year jail sentence for helping children of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra evade 15.88 billion baht in tax a decade ago. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
Former deputy finance minister Benja Louischaroen (centre) leaves the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Thursday after being released on bail following a three-year jail sentence for helping children of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra evade 15.88 billion baht in tax a decade ago. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

The Criminal Court on Thursday sentenced former deputy finance minister Benja Louischaroen and three revenue officials to three years in jail for helping children of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra evade a 16-billion-baht tax bill on the 2006 Shin Corp share sale.

The court found guilty four former and incumbent Revenue Department officials -- Mrs Benja, a former deputy director-general of the department who was deputy finance minister in the Yingluck Shinawatra government; Chamras Yamsoithong and Moreerat Boonyasiri, former legal affairs directors; and Krit Vipulanusat, the incumbent legal affairs director.

The court also sentenced Pranee Vejpruekpitak, former secretary to Thaksin's ex-wife Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, to two years in jail without suspension for aiding and abetting malfeasance under Section 157 of the Criminal Code.

The court released them all on bail for a surety of 300,000 baht each pending their appeal.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission filed the lawsuit against the five people on Dec 3, 2015, accusing the four officials of helping Panthongtae and Pinthongta Shinawatra avoid paying personal income tax.

The officials committed malfeasance when they responded to a tax question on the share sale raised by Pranee and told her the Shinawatras did not have to pay tax.

The two Shinawatras each bought 164.6 million Shin Corp shares from Ample Rich Investment Co Ltd at the par price of one baht in 2006 when the share price was 49.25 baht.

Revenue authorities later concluded that the Shinawatras earned income from the sales and had to pay a tax of 7.94 billion baht each or 15.88 billion baht in total for their gains.

The case dated back to January 2006 when then prime minister Thaksin announced the sale of his family's 49% stake in Shin Corp, later renamed Intouch, to Singapore's Temasek Holdings in a transaction worth 73 billion baht.

The sale occurred on Jan 23, 2006, just after a telecommunications act took effect on Friday Jan 20, 2006.

The act increased the ceiling of foreign shareholdings in a Thai telecoms business from 25% to 49%. The sale caused a stir with critics claiming the Shinawatra's holdings created a conflict of interest for Thaksin. He dissolved the House in February 2006.

Thaksin left Thailand in 2008 just before the Supreme Court sentenced him to two-years imprisonment for having a conflict of interest in a state-land auction in which his ex-wife had won. Thaksin has been in self-exile abroad since.


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