Appeals Court upholds 2-year prison term on ex-Pheu Thai leader Yongyuth

The Appeals Court today upheld the two-year prison sentence imposed on former Pheu Thai party leader Yongyuth Vichaidit for malfeasance in office in connection with the Alpine golf course in Bangkok’s neighboring province of Pathum Thani.

The 77-year-old former deputy permanent secretary of interior was, however, granted bail.  He is entitled to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court within 30 days.

In upholding the verdict, the Appeals Court ruled that Mr. Yongyuth’s decision to overturn the Land Department chief’s order to maintain the status of the land as temple land and change it to private land was illegal.

This long-running scandal, in which several former officials from the Thai Rak Thai party, the predecessor of the current Pheu Thai party, were implicated dates back to 1969 when Mrs. Nerm Chamnanchartsakda bequeathed over 112 hectares of land in Klong Luang district of Pathum Thani to Wat Thammikaram Voravihara in the southern province of Prachuab Khiri Khan, which was subsequently managed by the Maha Makutwitayalai Foundation, the inheritance manager.

As the land was had commercial potential, but temple land cannot be sold commercially under Thai law, it was targeted for re-designation by several politicians from the now defunct Thai Rak Thai party and, through subterfuge and influence, they managed to change the land’s status with the help of Mr. Yongyuth Vichaidit.

The change of the land’s designation paved the way for the sale in 1990 of this plot of prime real estate by Maha Makutwitayalai Foundation to Alpine Real Estate Company and Alpine Golf and Resorts Company, which were majority owned by Mrs. Uraiwan Thienthong, wife of then Deputy Interior Minister Sanoh Thienthong, for about 142 million baht.

The land was later turned into a golf course and housing estate.  The real estate and the golf course were later sold to Mrs. Pojamarn Shinawatra, wife of then former prime minister Thaksin, for about 500 million baht.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission launched a probe into the land deal, resulting in Mr. Yongyuth being found guilty of malfeasance in office and being charged in the Criminal Court with corruption.

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