'Oak' Shinawatra in firing line

'Oak' Shinawatra in firing line

Amlo to press money laundering charges

The Anti Money Laundering Office (Amlo) is expected to press money laundering charges against Panthongtae "Oak" Shinawatra and three others in connection with the Krungthai Bank (KTB) loan scandal next week.

The move had been widely predicted after a team of investigators led by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) wrapped up a lengthy inquiry and agreed there is adequate evidence to proceed.

The DSI investigation into the money laundering aspect of the KTB loan has been ongoing for years without much progress until recently.

DSI chief Paisit Wongmuang said yesterday the investigation team has concluded the probe and the department is in the process of forwarding its decision to Amlo. A DSI source insisted the case against Mr Panthongtae, who is Thaksin Shinawatra's only son, is not politically motivated as some might try to suggest following former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra's Aug 25 disappearance when she did not appear before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions to hear the court's ruling in her trial for alleged negligence in managing her government's controversial rice-pledging scheme.

The case focuses on Mr Panthongtae and three people receiving part of the 9.9-billion-baht fraudulent loan.

The others are Kanchanapha Honghern who was a secretary of Mr Thaksin's ex-wife Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra; Wanchai Honghern who is Ms Kanchanapha's husband; and Kesinee Jipiphop who is Ms Kanchanapha's mother.

They face charges because receiving assets from a corruption-plagued scheme forms the basis of money laundering.

The DSI has come across evidence that Mr Panthongtae and the other three were recipients of two cheques associated with the loan: A 10-million-baht cheque that was cashed into Mr Panthongtae's bank account, and a 26-million-baht cheque that was linked to the other three.

The KTB loan scandal involves 9.9 billion baht in loans made to subsidiaries of the Krisdamahanakorn (KMN) real-estate company during the Thaksin government.

In 2015 the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions found 24 people guilty of wrongfully approving more than 9.9 billion baht in loans to affiliates of developer KMN from 2003 and 2004, even though the firm was listed with the bank as a non-performing debtor.

However, a source close to the DSI probe said yesterday a meeting between investigators and prosecutors was divided over whether or not to pursue the charge.

While those at the meeting agreed Mr Panthongtae and the others received part of the money from the KTB loan, some thought there might not be sufficient evidence to indict them for money laundering.

The recipients earlier presented to the DSI "proof" the money was used to buy shares and invest in a business and the money was later returned and the business investment cancelled.

However, the meeting was asked to consider three points and make a decision on each one, which led to the conclusion.

The first point was to determine if the recipients' act met the criteria for money laundering. The meeting voted unanimously on this point.

The second point was to determine who should face the money laundering charge. The meeting decided Mr Panthongtae alone was linked to the 10-million-baht cheque while the three others were involved with the 26-million-baht cheque.

"The third point was to determine if they had ill intent when receiving the money from KMN and if they knew the money was part of fraudulent practice. The majority decided they had ill intent," the source said.

The four will be summonsed to answer the charges and submit evidence to clarify the allegations after Amlo files the complaint, the source said. It should take a few weeks before their indictment is sought.

Meanwhile, red-shirt leader Natthawut Saikuar yesterday urged fair treatment for Mr Panthongtae, citing a petition by former DSI deputy chief Somboon Sarasit. In his petition to the Merit System Protection Board, Pol Lt Col Somboon who was transferred to an inactive post last year claimed he was removed because he refused to proceed with a charge against Mr Panthongtae in the money laundering case.

Mr Nattawut said if there were grounds to Pol Lt Col Somboon's claim, the official's petition would no longer be a bone of contention between him and his supervisor.

He said it would involve the justice system as a whole and raise concerns if the criminal justice process was being abused as a tool against political opponents.

"If Mr Panthongtae did something illegal, he must face justice but proceedings must be fair and transparent," he said.

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