Lottery project gives Thaksin another jail term

Lottery project gives Thaksin another jail term

Then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra walks past a government lottery stall in Tak province in 2004. (File photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra walks past a government lottery stall in Tak province in 2004. (File photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on Thursday sentenced fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to two years in jail for illegally launching a two- and three-digit lottery scheme over a decade ago.

The ruling brought the combined jail term against him to five years. 

A committee of judges at the court handed down the ruling with a majority vote on Thaksin, 70, who was found guilty of malfeasance and violation to a law on the wrongdoing of government officials.

The case involves the two- and three-digit lottery scheme that Thaksin introduced from Aug 1, 2003 to Sept 16, 2006 when he was prime minister. He was among 47 defendants in the case and the case against him had been shelved after Thaksin had fled the country since 2008.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) sought the trial against him in absentia last year. 

The court stated government lotteries were aimed at generating income for the country and the digit lotteries put the country at risk.

Despite opposition, Thaksin ordered a then deputy finance minister and director of the Government Lottery Office to launch the two- and three-digit lotteries without a law supporting it or measure to prevent financial risks of the state as the GLO usually did.

While the lottery scheme brought 123.34 billion baht to state coffers, not all draws were profitable, with seven incurring losses totalling 1.67 billion baht, according to the ruling.

Apart from giving the jail sentence, the court also ordered a warrant for the arrest of Thaksin.

Patanapong Chanpetpul, director of the NACC's Bureau of Legal Affairs, said the court did not address the civil aspect of the case but by law the Finance Ministry, which supervised the GLO, could demand compensation for the damage.

On Sept 30, 2009, the court handed down a two-year jail term and a fine of 20,000 baht on former deputy finance minister Varathep Rattanakorn. It also sentenced former GLO chairman Somchainuk Engtrakul and ex- GLO director Chaiwat Pasokpakdee to two years in jail and a fine of 10,000 baht each. The jail sentences of the three were suspended for two years because they did not have previous convictions.

In 2008, the court sentenced Thaksin to two years in jail for having a conflict of interest after his ex-wife won a bidding contest to buy a state-owned land plot in inner Bangkok while he was prime minister in 2003. The 10-year statute of limitations of the case expired in October last year.

On April 23, the court sentenced him to three years in jail for ordering Export-Import Bank of Thailand to additionally lend 1 billion baht to Myanmar below cost for the benefits of his family's Shin Satellite Plc.


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