The Thai government can seize $1.4 billion US from ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, more than half of his holdings frozen in Thai banks, the country's Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The nine-judge panel also ruled Thaksin unlawfully concealed assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain.
The panel said it unanimously agreed Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon, and his ex-wife "still held shares in Shin Corp." — which controlled the country's largest mobile phone network — while he was prime minister. They also agreed that Thaksin had shaped government policies on mobile phone regulations to the company's advantage.
'This is total political involvement.' —Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra
But it ruled that "to seize all the money would be unfair since some of it was made before Thaksin became prime minister."
Thaksin's assets, worth approximately $2.29 billion US, are frozen in Thai banks, although an unknown portion of his family's wealth is ensconced in the United Arab Emirates.
Thaksin, who faces a two-year jail term from an earlier conviction, monitored the proceedings from exile in Dubai, where he provided a commentary via a video link and Twitter.
"This is total political involvement. The government knew the result in advance," Thaksin said shortly after the verdict.
Loyalists surround courthouse
Protestors Security was tight around the courthouse during the reading, amid government fears that Thaksin loyalists could react to the verdict with violence.
Hundreds of Thaksin supporters at the headquarters of the opposition Puea Thai party, which is allied with Thaksin, booed as the verdict was read. Some women began crying, and one man jumped up on a chair and started screaming at a television screen showing the court proceedings.
The judges applied mostly untested anti-corruption statutes in determining that Thaksin became "unusually wealthy" by abusing his position at the head of government from 2001 to 2006.
The court addressed five cases of alleged "policy corruption" during Thaksin's 2001-2006 tenure as prime minister and ruled that he was guilty of abusing his authority in four of the cases.
One of the most prominent cases involved a $127 million low-interest government loan to Myanmar in 2004 that Thaksin had endorsed with the intention of securing its purchase of satellite services from Shin Satellite, then controlled by Thaksin's family.
Thaksin's government billed the loan as a way to help the impoverished military-run country finance telecommunications projects.
The court ruled that Thaksin's government set domestic satellite policies that benefited his businesses.
It also ruled that a policy to convert part of a telecommunications concession fee into an excise tax "favoured Shin Corp. at the expense of the state."