The seven-hour verdict that cost Thaksin $1.4bn

Former prime minister convicted of abusing power in office claims court's ruling was rigged, raising fears of more unrest

The Thai authorities were last night braced for demonstrations after the country's highest court seized $1.4bn of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's assets and ruled that the exiled tycoon had abused his power in office.

In a marathon verdict that took seven hours to deliver, the Supreme Court said the one-time owner of Manchester City Football Club had concealed his ownership of shares in a family business during his five years he held the post. During that time, the court said, he had engineered government policy to benefit the conglomerate.

Last night, in a message delivered by video link to around 800 of his supporters, the telecommunications magnate said he had not been surprised by the verdict. "The Thai law is like an assumption. It severely fails to meet international standards," he said, as some of his supporters cried and other shouted in frustration.

In advance of "Judgment Day" the authorities had deployed thousands of additional police and security guards in anticipation of protests by Mr Thaksin's "red shirts" supporters. The court's nine judges were assigned body-guards and bullet-proof vehicles. Mobile phone signals were jammed to prevent the remote detonation of explosives.

Thailand has been racked by political turmoil ever since Mr Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006. After a period of military rule, subsequent elections saw allies of the tycoon assume the premiership but his opponents never ceased their efforts to undermine his supporters and two prime ministers close to Thaksin were forced from office. Previous demonstrations brought Bangkok to a standstill and forced the closure of international airports, costing Thailand millions of dollars in tourist earnings. In December 2008, the Eton-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the opposition Democrat Party, took charge with a slim majority. While his emergence brought some stability, the government has not addressed key issues.

The verdict against Mr Thaksin, who still retains huge support among Thailand's rural poor, was unanimous. The court found him guilty on all five charges, which included fixing government policy to benefit his family company, Shin Corp. One of the most prominent cases involved a $127m low-interest loan to Burma in 2004, which the court ruled the then prime minister had endorsed to secure its purchase of satellite services from Shin Satellite, then controlled by members of his family.

Mr Thaksin, previously convicted in absentia of corruption and sentenced to two years in jail, had denied all the charges. "This is total political involvement. The government knew the result in advance," he told his supporters from Dubai. "I've been prepared for the result since yesterday. I knew that I would get hit, but they are kind enough to give me back 30 billion [baht]."

Things could have been worse for the 60-year-old tycoon. In the aftermath of the 2006 coup, the courts froze $2.3bn of his assets. this time, the court decided not to seize the money he had amassed before becoming prime minister, saying it "would be unfair". The government hopes that yesterday's ruling will lead to a return of stability. At the same time, it has increased security amid fears that members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, also known as the "red shirts", could launch fresh protests. "We hope for the best," said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a government spokesman. "Of course many people fear for the worst but we are ready to manage whatever comes."

Mr Thaksin's supporters will see yesterday's ruling as the latest in a series of establishment blows against the populist who won two sweeping electoral victories before being swept from power by a conservative coalition that inaccurately called itself a pro-democracy movement. Many believe he has been hounded because Thailand's urban ruling class felt threatened when he empowered the country's rural poor with a series of social welfare programmes.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist from Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, told the Associated Press: "[This will] not put an end to Thailand's crisis because now Thaksin's supporters, the Red Shirts, have evolved into their own force to be reckoned with."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power