Court acquits former revenue chief on share transfer case

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BANGKOK, Jan 31 – The Appeals Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court decision acquitting former director-general of the Revenue Department Sirote Sawasdipanich and five former revenue officials of negligence of duty for their failure to collect tax from the former wife of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra over a transfer of shares.

The defendants had been charged with negligence of duty and causing a Bt270 million loss in revenue to the state for failing to collect tax from Khunying Pojaman Na Pombejra, Mr Thaksin’s ex-wife, in the transfer of 4.5 million Shin Corp shares worth Bt738 million to her stepbrother Bannapot Damapong.

In the lawsuit, the prosecutors said Mrs Pojaman transferred the shares held in the name of her maid Duangta Wongpakdi to her stepbrother without any payment.

Therefore the share transfer is tantamount to taxable assets from which the state should have benefited with Bt270 million in tax.

Mr Bannapot failed to report receiving the shares to the revenue department which was later awared of it in an inquiry by the National Anti-Corruption Commission which concluded that Mr Thaksin and his spouse had filed a false statement over their assets.

Mrs Pojaman argued the shares were given to her stepbrother as a gift, therefore it should not be taxable. The case was submitted to the then senior revenue officials including Mr Sirote for legal interpretation.

The lower court had acquitted all the five defendants on Feb 26, 2009, reasoning that they neither had authority to collect tax nor examine taxation as their responsibility was as legal examiners. Therefore, the court ruled that all the defendants were not guilty.

The prosecutor petitioned the Appeals Court, however, which upheld the lower court’s decision.