Thaksin's wife held in Thailand after returning to 'clear name'

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The Independent Online

The wife of Thailand's ousted prime minister has been arrested on corruption charges after returning to the country in what her husband said was a mission to clear their names.

Pojaman Shinawatra, wife of Thaksin Shinawatra, was served with two arrest warrants yesterday and released on bail of around 100,000 after appearing in the country's Supreme Court. She had flown into Bangkok from Hong Kong, one of several cities in which the couple have based themselves since being forced from Thailand in a 2006 coup after being accused of widespread corruption.

"My wife and I are ready to fight all charges to prove our innocence," said the former prime minister, who is also the owner of Manchester City football club. "As I have insisted many times, I am ready to return to Thailand to prove my innocence and fight the charges according to judicial process. But I do not want to fuel conflicts among Thai people that could worsen the situation in Thailand."

The charges against the couple focus on a deal made by the prime minister's wife to purchase a one-acre plot of land in the centre of Bangkok from the Financial Institutions Development Fund, a government agency that was established to help debt-ridden banks. She paid $26m (13m) for the land, which was reportedly worth three times that amount. Thai law prohibits prime ministers or their spouses from doing business with government agencies. The couple face almost 30 years in jail if convicted.

In addition to the allegation that the prime minister's wife used her husband's political influence to buy the prime real estate in 2003, the couple are also accused of concealing millions of dollars in stock market shares.

Her return home has added new tension to Thailand's turbulent political situation, in which allies of the former prime minister are attempting to form a coalition government after their success in last month's general elections.

After Pojaman Shinawatra was released from custody she was taken to the Department of Special Investigations and read charges in connection with a case that alleges she and her husband concealed their stocks. They are charged with violating disclosure rules.

"It is the best time for [Pojaman Shinawatra] to return to fight her cases since the country has returned to normal," the family's lawyer, Noppadon Pattama, told reporters. He said she also planned to attend the funeral of Princess Galyani Vadhana, who died last week.

The former prime minister has said that he will not return to frontline politics. However, he has said that he is ready to serve as adviser to his allies in the People's Power Party.