The Supreme Court yesterday sentenced fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to two years in jail for illegally launching a two- and three-digit lottery scheme between 2003 and 2006.
He was found guilty by the court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions of breaching Section 157 of the Criminal Code regarding abuse of power in relation to the case.
The scheme ran from Aug 1, 2003 to Sept 16, 2006 when Thaksin was prime minister. He was among 47 defendants in the case, who included cabinet ministers and executives of the Government Lottery Office (GLO) at the time.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) brought the case to court in 2008 but it was shelved after Thaksin fled Thailand that year.
The case was later revived after a law on criminal procedures for holders of political positions, which enables a trial to proceed in absentia, came into effect in 2017.
Thaksin did not have lawyers attend hearings in the case.
The court said the lottery scheme was aimed at seeking revenue for the state.
Despite being challenged about the legality of the scheme, Thaksin made no effort to stop it, according to the court.
The ex-prime minister ordered a deputy finance minister and the GLO director at the time to expedite efforts to roll out the scheme without waiting for lottery ticket printing machines to be ready.
The move showed Thaksin did not care about the objectives of the GLO operation with regard to laws governing the organisation and no efforts were made to amend the legislation before proceeding with the project, the court said.
The court learned the scheme registered 123.3 billion baht in revenue and 1.6 billion baht in losses over seven draws.
Thaksin was aware of the financial risk but failed to come up with risk-mitigation measures, the court said.
In 2008, the court sentenced Thaksin to two years in prison for having a conflict of interest after his ex-wife won an auction to buy state-owned land in inner Bangkok while he was prime minister in 2003.
He was also handed a three-year jail sentence in April for ordering Export-Import Bank of Thailand to lend 1 billion baht to Myanmar, with a very low interest rate, to benefit his family's Shin Satellite Plc.