Panthongtae acquitted of money laundering

Panthongtae acquitted of money laundering

Panthongtae Shinawatra, right, and his mother Khunying Potjaman Na Pombejra leave the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Bangkok on Monday after his acquittal. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Panthongtae Shinawatra, right, and his mother Khunying Potjaman Na Pombejra leave the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Bangkok on Monday after his acquittal. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases on Monday acquitted Panthongtae Shinawatra of money laundering, finding he did not know the source of a 10-million-baht cheque he received from a friend involved the Krungthai Bank (KTB) loan scandal.

Public prosecutors arraigned the 41-year-old son of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Oct 10 last year, charging that the cheque was drawn on money from illegal loans totalling 9.9 billion baht obtained from the state-run KTB.

Mr Panthongtae denied money laundering. He said the money belonged to his friend Ratchada Krisdathanon, 53, who wanted to co-invest in a planned supercar import venture which was later scrapped.

During the trial, Mr Panthongtae was released on bail of 1 million baht on the condition that he remained in the country.

The court ruled that Mr Panthongtae was not guilty of money laundering because public prosecutors failed to prove that he knew the source of the 10 million baht that he received from Ratchada's father Wichai Krisdathanon, owner of real estate developer Krisdamahanakorn (KMC).

Mr Panthongthae received the money when he was a 26-year-old graduate and at that time he owned about 4-billion-baht worth of shares in his own companies. The 10-million-baht sum was only 0.25% of his share wealth, the court said.

The court also mentioned that Thaksin, Mr Panthongtae's father, had been acquitted in the Krungthai Bank loan scandal.

The court stated that public prosecutors proved only that at the time he received the cheque Mr Panthongtae was close to Wichai's family.

After the ruling, Mr Panthongtae said he had received considerable moral support and was grateful for it. His mother Khunying Potjaman Na Pombejra smiled and said she felt relieved.

Mr Panthongtae was accused of money laundering because he had received a 10-million-baht cheque allegedly drawn on illegitimately approved loans totalling 9.9 billion baht that KTB extended to subsidiaries of KMC between 2003 and 2004 while his father Thaksin was the prime minister.

Wichai, 80, was sentenced to 12 years in prison over the KTB loans in 2015.

Under a debt-rehabilitation agreement, KMC was not eligible to receive any more loans. However, KTB  gave credit lines totalling 9.9 billion baht to its subsidiaries. Of the total, 8 billion baht was for repaying the debts it had with Bangkok Bank. One of the directors alleged the "big boss" wanted them to approve the loan.

But days before the loan was approved, Bangkok Bank, KMC's creditor, gave the company a reduction to 4.5 billion baht from 14.3 billion if the amount was paid in a month.

After receiving 8 billion baht of the loan from KTB, only 4.5 billion went to clearing the debts with Bangkok Bank. The rest was spent in transactions with different groups and people including Wichai, whose money was used to buy the 10-million-baht cashier's cheque for Mr Panthongtae.

In 2015, former KTB president Viroj Nualkhair, former bank chairman Suchai Jaovisidha and 22 other bank staff were found guilty of charges connected to the KTB scandal.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court acquitted Thaksin of charges in connection with the same KTB loan scandal, ruling there was no proof presented that he was the "big boss" who had ordered KTB to approve the 9.9 billion baht in loans to KMC's affiliates.

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