Leading article: Give us your billionaires

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The UK will give back the world's poor to the lands whence they have fled, but when it comes to a billionaire seeking refuge, then there is no door which is not opened, no Mayfair mansion which is not offered, no country estate which cannot be bought...

Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand, said this week that he intends to remain in Britain - one of a long line of Russian oligarchs, deposed African despots and assorted wealthy Central Asians, many of them fleeing the law of their lands and most of them claiming political persecution to justify their stay.

Perhaps Thaksin is right to fear return. He is very clearly in the sights of a military that ousted him in a coup two years ago. Due to appear in a Bangkok court yesterday on charges of abuse of power and tax evasion, he has chosen instead to seek exile, and protection here. Perhaps he deserves it on political grounds. But does he also have the right to own an English football club such as Manchester City as a talisman against being thrown out? That is truly to confuse politics with the operations of the free market.

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