Former deputy finance minister Benja jailed for two years

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Former deputy finance minister Benja Louicharoen and three former senior revenue officials were sentenced to two-year in prison without suspension today (Thursday ) after being found guilty of malfeasance in office, for helping two children of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra evade or reduce their tax liability, related to the purchase of over 329 million shares of Shin Corporation.

The three ex-revenue officials are Ms. Chamras Yamsoithong, former deputy director-general of Revenue Department, Ms. Moreerat Boonyasiri and Mr. Krit Wipunanusat, both former directors of the legal affairs division of Revenue Department.

The fifth defendant, Ms. Pranee Wechapruekpitak, a close aide to Khunying Potjamarn na Pompetch, ex-wife of Thaksin, had her two-year prison term upheld by the Supreme Court for being an accessory to the tax evasion scheme.

The Supreme Court dismissed the defendants’ pleas for leniency or suspended jail terms, noting that their offences were serious and undeserving of leniency.

The court agreed, however, that their testimonies were useful in the trial and decided to reduce their sentences, which had originally been handed down by the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases and then upheld subsequently by the Appeals Court, by one-third.

The cases date back to 2006, when Thaksin’s two children, Panthongtae and Ms. Pinthongta, bought 164.6 million shares in family-owned Shin Corp at par value of 1 baht/share, when the market price then stood at 49.25 baht/share.

The unusual share deal was later declared, by the Assets Scrutiny Committee, to be a hidden transaction to help Panthongtae and Ms. Pinthongta evade or reduce tax liability, resulting in significant damage to the state, estimated at about 15.8 billion baht.



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