Thanathorn transfers assets to blind trust

Thanathorn transfers assets to blind trust

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit speaks on the campaign trail in the Northeast last week. (Photo from Facebook/Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit)
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit speaks on the campaign trail in the Northeast last week. (Photo from Facebook/Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit)

The billionaire leader of the Future Forward Party has pledged to transfer his assets to a blind trust ahead of the general election.

While the size of the assets was not revealed, some media reported the deal was worth 5 billion baht. 

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, an heir to Thai Summit Group, an auto-parts conglomerate, told a briefing on Monday he had signed a memorandum of understanding with Phatra Asset Management Co Ltd, an asset-management arm under SET-listed Kiatnakin Phatra Plc.

The move is to meet legal requirements and set standards for transparency among politicians, he said.

“Businessmen entering politics is nothing new. In most countries, standards are clearly set to earn public trust. A most popular way is for politicians to transfer his assets to a blind trust,” he said.

In a blind trust, beneficiaries have no knowledge of the holdings of the trust and no right to intervene in its handling.

“The [2017] constitution requires that persons holding political positions must not have conflicts of interest by holding shares in companies that benefit from state concessions. It also stipulates a minister must transfer his assets to an asset management company. However, it does not say it needs to be a blind trust,” Mr Thanathorn said.

Thailand does not have laws endorsing a blind trust so it is not possible to set up one in exactly the same way as in other countries. “What Phatra and I are doing is an innovation -- a trust made ‘blind’ voluntarily without legal requirements,” he said.

Among the conditions of the MoU, the trust will not buy any Thai shares -- any stock investment must be made in foreign shares -- and the ownership will be returned to him three years after he leaves office.

On why he chose Phatra, Mr Thanathorn said the company and he had never had any business dealings. “The company is professional and well-respected in its industry. I have every confidence it will not bow to anyone's will when I’m in a position of power,” he explained.

Mr Thanathorn also said his mother Somporn would sell all shares she held in Matichon Plc, publisher of Matichon, Khaosod and Prachahart Turakit newspapers, as well as weeklies and books, in the near future.

He claimed he had not had a say in the family’s decision to buy the shares in the first place but was sent to sit on the board for a period of time.

“After I resigned from all business positions last May, our family has not sent anyone to sit on Matichon’s board. But for the sake of transparency, my mother will sell the shares soon.”

According to Stock Exchange of Thailand data as of March last year, Mrs Somporn was the second largest shareholder of Matichon, with 35.8 million shares or 19.33% worth 176.1 million baht, after founder Kanchai Boonparn (34.95%). Mr Thanathorn is no longer listed as a director. 

On the criticism his political role may have conflicts of interest with the family business, Mr Thanathorn said almost all of the company’s revenue came from foreign traders.

“Thai Summit has never held state concessions and had no plan to conduct business with the government. I believe this trend will continue. But if in the future Thai Summit decides to work with the government, I will not take part in any decision and urge the public to help scrutinise such a deal.”

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