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Thai Court Rules Against Thaksin on Assets

Thailand's Supreme Court has found former Thai leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, guilty of concealing assets and abuse of power during the time he was prime minister. The court also ordered the seizure of more than $1 billion in assets currently frozen by state.

The nine member panel of Supreme Court judges ruled Friday that former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had abused his power by unlawfully concealing assets while the country's leader.

The judges ruled in a majority decision to seize $1.4 billion of the more than $2.3 billion currently frozen by the Thai state following a coup in 2006.

The judges ruled Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon, and his former wife, Pojaman, had maintained shares in the family linked company, Shin Corp, which remained under his control in breach of constitutional rulings against conflicts of interest.

The court ruled Thaksin had abused his authority by assisting subsidiaries of Shin Court including the mobile telephone company, a satellite concession while maintaining control through a labyrinth of shareholdings.

The court verdict ends an investigation into Thaksin's wealth that followed his overthrow in a military coup in 2006.

Thaksin, who lives in exile, fled Thailand in 2008 just before a court verdict found him guilty of corruption and sentenced him in absentia to two years jail over the purchase of state owned land by his ex wife.

On Friday a few of Thaksin's supporters gathered at the court to lend support. Sixty year old Bangkok housewife, Khun Apun was one of those supporters.

Khun Apun said had come to give morale support to Thaksin and press for justice because he is still seen as a good person in many people's hearts and his help for the poor

Thaksin has called supporters to remain calm. The government had stepped up security ahead of Friday's verdict.

The judges were reported to be wearing bulletproof vests and were surrounded by police guards as they arrived at the court.

Kraisak Choonhavan, a member of the governing Democrat Party, said the verdict would have a long term impact on the Thai political landscape. "This is an unprecedented moment in Thai history. It would certainly mark a precedent for future governance of Thailand that is one of the most important landmarks in Thai history," he said.

The verdict affects more than 20 members of the Shinawatra family and associates.

When in power Thaksin had been accused of placing family business interests ahead of government policy.

In early 2006 he sold Shin Corp to a Singapore investment house for over $2 billion having legislation passed days earlier to enable greater foreign ownership in Thai telecom companies. The deal also largely avoided paying tax.

Political analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak says the verdict will do little to end Thailand's deep political divisions. "It's supposed to be the culmination, the completion of the military coup that ousted Thaksin because of corruption. But in fact the verdict is only going to start a new cycle, another episode, turning the leaf for Thailand's political transformation," he said.

Thitinan says Thaksin's popularity was largely based on his populist policies while in power and many people remain loyal to the former prime minister despite the charges of corruption and abuse of power.

Pro-Thaksin groups have vowed to resume protests against the government.