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Economic slowdown to improve

Pojaman Shinawatra charged with tax evasion

Economic slowdown to improve

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Industry Minister Kosit Panpiemras voiced confidence the current economic slowdown would begin to improve in the coming one to two months, saying the government would step up efforts to stimulate the economy by boosting state spending, private consumption and investment, and mega-project investment.

Deputy Prime Minister Kosit Panpiemras addressing the media in Bangkok. TNA Photo.

Mr. Kosit said he believed the country’s economy would begin to pick up in the second quarter of this year with the gross domestic product likely to grow at least 4 per cent when the post-election government takes up the economic management task late this year.

The deputy prime minister conceded the committee tasked to drive the overall economy assessed the overall picture of the economy and found some economic segments had slowed down.

However, it is not beyond the government’s ability to bring back normal economic conditions through its spending.

Mr. Kosit indicated the government would accelerate its spending, which is a key drive in the economy, to ensure the economic situation returns to normal in the third quarter.

Regarding a decline in public consumption, he said, the government would try to accelerate disbursing the budget spending in local communities as soon as possible.

On the private investment, he said, the committee had monitored information and found that investment in small- and medium-size enterprises remained worthwhile.

Mr. Kosit noted that imports had grown at a slower pace in the first quarter, meaning that large-scale investment in projects had eased. (TNA)

Pojaman Shinawatra charged with tax evasion

The wife of ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was charged with evading millions of dollars in taxes, opening the first corruption case involving the ousted leader’s inner circle since a September coup.

Pojaman Shinawatra, her brother and secretary were arraigned at the Bangkok Criminal Court and released after posting bail of 15 million baht (US$476,000; €120,000) bail, said her attorney Nopadol Patama. The court set a trial date for May 14.

The case marks the first prosecution of those close to Thaksin, who was ousted by a September military coup and accused of widespread corruption. Coup leaders had cited Thaksin’s corruption as justification for his ouster and have faced strong criticism for being slow to prove their allegations, many of which remain under investigation.

Pojaman, who could face prison time if found guilty, made no comment to reporters as she was escorted by dozens of police from the courthouse and into a dark sedan. More than 100 police were deployed in the area amid concerns over possible protests by both supporters and opponents of Thaksin, police Capt. Somsak Wimanrat said.

The family’s attorney said the trio planned to plead not-guilty and defense preparations were under way.

“We are preparing the best tax lawyers to fight this case in court,” Nopadol told reporters.

The case centers on a 1997 transfer of shares in the family telecommunications empire later known as Shin Corp.

An investigation by the Assets Examination Committee found last month that Thaksin’s wife and her brother had to pay back taxes of about 546 million baht _ about US$17 million (€12 million) at the current exchange rate _ on the share transfer. The committee was appointed by coup leaders to investigate alleged corruption linked to Thaksin’s administration.

Pojaman and her brother, Bhanapot Damapong, face a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison and a 400,000 baht (US$12,600; €9,100) fine each if convicted on two tax evasion counts, said Attapol Yaisawang, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office.

The secretary, Kanchanapa Honghern, would face a maximum penalty of seven years and a 200,000 baht (US$6,300; €4,500) fine because she is accused of only one charge.

Thaksin transferred shares in Shin Corp. to his maid and other domestic helpers to shed holdings before taking public office. His first of two terms as prime minister began in 2001.

This case is not connected to the contentious sale last year of Shin Corp. to Temasek Holdings, a Singaporean state-owned company, for 73.3 billion baht (US$2.2 billion; €1.7 billion). But it is being widely watched as part of the corruption allegations against Thaksin.

The Shin sale drew widespread protests because it placed strategic assets, including communications satellites, in the hands of foreigners, and because the deal was structured so that Thaksin’s family did not have to pay any capital gains tax.

Thaksin’s daughter Pintongta and son Phantongtae are under investigation by the Assets Examination Committee in connection with that transaction.