July 31 (Bloomberg) -- The wife of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and her brother were sentenced to three years in prison for evading taxes, the first conviction in a string of cases filed against the ex-premier's family since he was ousted in a 2006 coup.
Pojamarn Shinawatra, 50, and her brother Bhanapot Damapong were met by cheering supporters at Bangkok Criminal Court before today's verdict was read. The siblings were accused of collaborating and conspiring to evade tax and providing false testimony and documentation on the 1997 transfer of 4.5 million shares of a company formerly controlled by the family. They were granted bail and can appeal the decision, the court said.
The convictions may lead to more confrontations between Thaksin's friends and foes after the Supreme Court accepted two new cases against him this week. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej submitted a cabinet reshuffle list for royal endorsement yesterday in a bid to calm protesters who say he's beholden to Thaksin.
``The decision will increase political pressure,'' said Jade Donavanik, dean of the law school at Siam University in Bangkok. ``One group will want more convictions, while the other will want the legal processes against Thaksin to stop.''
Thailand's benchmark SET Index has fallen 24 percent since street protests began May 25, and the baht has fallen 4.5 percent. Demonstrators, who want Thaksin behind bars, are led by Sondhi Limthongkul, a former business associate of the ex-premier who fell out with him in 2005.
Wedding Gift `Unconvincing'
Bhanapot, former chairman of Shin Corp., a Thai telecommunications company, received 4.5 million shares of the firm valued at 738 million baht ($22 million) on Nov. 7, 1997, from Pojamarn's secretary, who was also convicted today and sentenced to two years in jail.
Bhanapot said the transfer shouldn't be subject to tax because the shares were a wedding gift from Pojamarn, an argument the court said today was ``unconvincing.''
The share transfer couldn't be a wedding gift because Bhanapot registered his marriage in January 1996, according to findings from the Assets Scrutiny Committee, a body created after the coup to investigate Thaksin, his family and members of his cabinet. The share transfer should be taxed 270 million baht, excluding a penalty fee, it said.