Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Will be taken straight to court, says her aide

Potjaman due to return today

Will be taken straight to court, says her aide


Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra will be taken into police custody the moment she lands at Suvarnabhumi airport today to face corruption charges on the controversial Ratchadaphisek land deal and share concealment involving SC Asset Co, a firm run by her family. National police chief Pol Gen Seripisuth Temiyavej said the wife of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was due about 9am and would be put under police protection. She will come alone and ''police are ready for her return''.

A source said she would be arriving from Hong Kong on flight TG 603, due at 9.40am.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions issued arrest warrants for Mr Thaksin and his wife in August last year after the couple failed to appear for the first hearing in the 772-million-baht Ratchadaphisek land purchase case.

Mr Thaksin has said he will return to fight the charges by mid-April.

Her aide said Khunying Potjaman will immediately go before the Supreme Court to defend the charges.

Khunying Potjaman had prepared money to bail herself out of court.

Mr Thaksin and Khunying Potjaman face charges over the 33-rai Ratchadaphisek land purchase from the Financial Institutions Development Fund in 2003, and also over the intention to conceal assets in SC Asset, which is against the stock trading law.

Khunying Potjaman won the bid for the land deal, but the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) accused her and her husband of influencing the deal when Mr Thaksin was prime minister.

Rakkiart Wattapong, a secretary to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions, said judges would be ready to hear the Ratchadaphisek case from today because the court needed only three judges for the task.

Khunying Potjaman had the right to seek bail but the final decision would depend on the judges, he added.

After appearing before the court, she will be taken by the Department of Special Investigation, who want her on the asset concealment charge, according to Mr Rakkiart.

In another development, the ASC yesterday filed charges against 14 more people, including singer-turned-politician Arisaman Pongruengrong, who have been found to be involved in the alleged corruption in the Baan Ua-arthorn low-cost housing project.

Some of the accused are close to Watana Muangsook, the former social development and human security minister who faced ASC charges of receiving bribes late last year. They allegedly colluded to illegally acquire land for the project, causing damage of 200 million baht to the state, said Kaewsan Atipho, who heads the Baan Ua-arthon inquiry.

Mr Arisaman was accused of ''serving as a broker'' between a land owner and Mr Watana, he said. He negotiated with the landlord and offered the land to Mr Watana at an inflated price.

Other suspects include Pornprom Wongwiwat, an official working close to Mr Watana, Rattana sae Heng, a secretary for President Agri Trading Co that was allegedly acting as an agent to collect bribes for Mr Watana, and former National Housing Authority governor Chuanpis Chaimuenvong, who faces an additional charge of dishonesty.

Mr Watana faces seven counts, including bribes and abuse of power. However, Mr Kaewsan said, he was cleared of a money laundering charge.

''We can say our investigation on the Baan Ua-arthorn case is over,'' he said, adding that the ASC could substantiate its charges with financial evidence. The ASC will allow all the accused to prove their innocence.

Meanwhile, Noppadol Pattama, Mr Thaksin's lawyer, called on the junta-appointed ASC to resign and let their work be done by the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC).

The ASC is the ''poison fruit'' of the 2006 coup, he said. It overthrew the Thaksin administration and dictated the establishment of the group to investigate alleged corruption of Mr Thaksin and his family.

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