[JURIST] Lawyers for ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] challenged the Thai government's decision to seize $2.2 billion of Thaksin's assets during a hearing Wednesday before Thailand's Supreme Court Criminal Division for Political Office Holders. The attorney general [official website, in Thai] claims Thaksin is unusually rich [Nation report] and accused him of making his fortune through abuse of his power. Thaksin's family made a great deal of their money by selling stock [Bangkok Post report] in Shin Corporation [corporate website] just three days after the government raised the maximum foreign ownership of telecommunication companies from 20 percent to 49 percent. Prosecutors claim Thaksin never paid taxes on the sale. Lawyers for Thaksin claim that the attempt to seize the assets is politically motivated and that Thaksin was not given an opportunity to call witnesses on his behalf before the Assets Examination Committee decided to seize his money.
In April, a Thai court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Thaksin, who fled Thailand last summer, a day after he called for the government to be overthrown. In October, a Thai court found Thaksin guilty [JURIST report] in absentia on corruption charges and he was sentenced to two years in prison. Last August, Thai prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to seize over $2 billion [JURIST report] from Thaksin's frozen accounts and holdings in relation to the charges. Last July, the Thai Attorney General's Office filed corruption charges [JURIST report] against Thaksin for his role in a 2003 resolution reducing fees paid by mobile phone companies to state telecommunications agencies. Later that month, Thaksin's wife, as well as her step brother and secretary, were convicted of tax evasion [JURIST report] as a result of her transferring $16.3 million worth of stock to the two. Also that month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear additional charges against Thaksin and 47 other for alleged misconduct [JURIST reports] related to the country's lottery system. Thaksin was ousted from power [JURIST report] in a 2006 military coup.