Singapore Media Watch

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Court accepts lawsuit against company formerly headed by Thailand's ousted premier - AP

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- A top Thai civil court Thursday accepted a lawsuit seeking to cancel licenses given to Thaksin Shinawatra's former business empire for various telecom services, in what could prove another blow to the ousted premier.

The lawsuit alleges that Shin Corp., the former centerpiece of Thaksin's business empire that was sold to Singapore's state investment company, is no longer entitled to hold the licenses because the company's sale violated provisions of Thai law.

The Supreme Administrative Court accepted the case Thursday, and a ruling in favor of the lawsuit could strengthen graft allegations against Thaksin.

Shin Corp. , which holds licenses for communication satellites, mobile telephone services and television broadcasting, was sold Singapore's Temasek Holdings in January. The deal was condemned by critics because Thaksin's family avoided paying any taxes on the sale and because it put what was deemed a strategic national asset into foreign hands.

The sale sparked massive street demonstrations that helped lead to the coup that toppled the businessman-turned-politician last month.

Law professor Sastra Toon originally filed the lawsuit in March, claiming Shin Corp. was not entitled to hold the telecom licenses because its sale violated provisions of Thai law on the sale of assets related to national security to foreign entities.

The Central Administrative Court earlier rejected the case on grounds that Sastra was not a contractual party.

But the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that Sastra could file the suit in his capacity as a user of such telecom services, said judge Vichai Cheunchompoonut.

The plaintiff demanded that government agencies revoke the concessions awarded to Shin Corp. for the satellite and mobile telephone services and a license to operate television station ITv.
The judge said the agencies have been given 30 days to submit their arguments.
The former prime minister's family was one of the wealthiest in Southeast Asia even before he came into office in 2001. He sold Shin Corp. for a tax-free 73.3 billion baht (US$1.9 billion; €1.55 billion).

The military council which staged the coup against him Sept. 19 has appointed a panel to investigate the sale as well as other assets owned by the toppled leader who now resides in London.

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