Thaksin's son answers, denies laundering charges

Thaksin's son answers, denies laundering charges

Panthongtae Shinawatra, fourth from left, arrives at the Department of Special Investigation in Bangkok on Tuesday to answer money-laundering charges. (Photo captured from DSI's surveillance camera footage)
Panthongtae Shinawatra, fourth from left, arrives at the Department of Special Investigation in Bangkok on Tuesday to answer money-laundering charges. (Photo captured from DSI's surveillance camera footage)

Panthongtae Shinawatra and three others have acknowledged and denied money-laundering charges concerning the multi-billion-baht Krungthai Bank loan scandal that involved his father Thaksin, according to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

Deputy DSI director-general Songsak Raksaksakul said on Wednesday that Mr Panthongtae, Kanchanapa Honghern, Kesinee Jipipob and Wanchai Honghern met DSI interrogators to acknowledge the charges of money laundering and conspiracy in money laundering on Tuesday, earlier than their scheduled appointment next Tuesday.

They denied the charges and would defend themselves in the justice system, Pol Lt Col Songsak said. The DSI then released them without bail because they presented themselves ahead of schedule.

The DSI had not set the next meeting with them and would be ready to receive their written arguments in the case, he said.

Pol Lt Col Songsak said that the charges resulted from the request of the Anti-Money Laundering Office for the DSI to investigate the people who received or were connected with money related to the improper lending from Krungthai Bank to subsidiaries of Krisdamahanakorn Plc (KMC).

Two amounts of 10 million baht and 26 million baht were linked with the four suspects, he said.

The four were accompanied by their own lawyers, former justice minister Chaikasem Nitisiri and lawyer Pichit Chuenban. Mr Panthongtae's sisters Pinthongta and Praethontan were also present.

Mrs Kanchanapa was a personal secretary to Mr Panthongtae's mother Khunying Pojaman na Pombejra. Mrs Kesinee and Mr Wanchai are Mrs Kanchanapa's mother and husband respectively.

The case concerns money transferred to Mr Panthongtae from KMC, which inappropriately received 9.9 billion baht in loans through subsidiaries from Krungthai Bank in 2003-2004 during the Thaksin administration.

State-owned Krungthai Bank lent the money to KMC's subsidiaries to refinance loans and for project development.

KMC was at the time in Krungthai Bank's non-performing loans group, a category that banks should not lend to under Bangkok of Thailand regulations.

Bank executives were found to have approved the loan because a "big boss" said there would be no problems. The court, however, decided there was not enough evidence to establish who the "big boss" was. 

It was found the money was later paid in hundreds of transactions, including 10 million baht to Mr Panthongtae and 26 million baht to Mrs Kesinee.

Mr Panthongtae had explained that Wichai Krisadatanon, a KMC executive, wrote him a 26 million baht cheque and asked him to buy shares on the Stock Exchange of Thailand on his behalf. Mr Panthongtae did not accept it and told him to ask Mrs Kesinee instead.

The cheque payable to Mr Panthongtae was therefore cancelled and 26 million baht was transferred to Mrs Kesinee the next day to buy Ch Karnchang shares in her name. Mrs Kesinee paid Wichai back 2-3 months later, after the shares were sold. 

As for the 10 million baht cheque, Mr Panthongtae argued it was given to him by Wichai's son Ratchada, who sought to co-invest with him in a car import business he was planning at the time. The project did not materialise because of complex regulations involved, so he paid Ratchada back a year later, also by cheque.

In 2015, the Supreme Court for politicians sentenced 16 people to 12 and 18 years in jail for malfeasance. They included three former top Krungthai Bank executives and KMC executives, including Wichai and Ratchada.

Thaksin was the first defendant in the case but he had left the country in 2008, so his trial was shelved.

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