The Supreme Court yesterday sentenced three attorneys for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Pojaman to six months in prison for attempted bribery.
The court ruled that the three had conspired to undermine the judiciary's reputation and integrity by stashing Bt2 million in cash in a snack box handed to a court official on June 10.
According to the presiding judge at yesterday's trial, the bribery attempt was "a serious matter" and "grave" action that insulted the highest court.
It was also likely have a "repercussion" on the on-going trial involving Thaksin and his wife in the Ratchadaphisek land purchase, in which the ex-premier is accused of abusing his power while in office for a sweetheart deal with the government.
Thana Tansiri, the lawyer who delivered the snack box stashed with Bt1,000 notes worth around Bt2 million, was not present at yesterday's sentencing. He had asked for a trial postponement, claiming health reasons, but the judges dismissed the request on grounds that his health problems didn't appear to be serious.
The court then ordered police to issue an arrest warrant for the lawyer.
The two other convicted lawyers were Pichit Chuenban and Suphasri Sriswat.
"I'm certain [of my innocence]," said Pichit, head of the legal team. Pichit said he didn't know why Thana, who is on his team, did not show up.
On June 10, Thana was found guilty of trying to bribe ML Thitipong Chompoonuch, a legal officer at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions, and his colleagues by handing the paper bag containing the snack box stuffed with some Bt2 million in cash.
According to the presiding judge, who read out the verdict, Thana told Thitipong: "These days I have to come [to the court] often and I feel sorry for the officials who have to work hard, so I have something for you people."
Thana had argued in his earlier testimony that it was a mistake, as his driver got the wrong box for him to deliver to the court official.
The "wrong" box contained money intended for a land purchase, while Thana's wife was said to have filled another bag with chocolate candy.
However, the judges ruled the argument unlikely, saying that if Thana really intended to give chocolate he could have done it in the open in the presence of other officials, not privately with Thitipong alone.
According to the judges, Thana didn't mention any other "chocolate bag" while court staff took photographs of the snack box filled with cash.
The court believed Pichit and Suphasri were also "working closely" with Thana as all of them appeared at the court on that day.
"They kept talking to one another prior to Thaksin's and Pojaman's arrival at the court, and thus they must be regarded as one team."
When Pichit learned about the return of the snack box, he only made a phone call to Thitipong to apologise and didn't appear to have reprimanded Thana. "It shows that they collaborated with one another ... were aware [of the matter] and divided their role in this attempted bribery," the court said
Lunch box lawyers jailed
The Supreme Court handed down the sentences after investigating the case. The three were convicted for "violating the dignity of the court," Supreme Court Vice President Moonkol Thapthieng announced.
On June 10, a C-7 court official reported that a lawyer had handed him a snack box containing two million baht and told him to spread it around.
After an investigation, Supreme Court officials charged Mr Thaksin's lawyers with an attempt to bribe court officials. They are lawyer Pichit Chuenban, his assistant Suppasri Srisawasdi and lawyer Thana Tansiri. Mr Thana failed to show up for the hearing, claiming he had a headache. The court ruled that his ailment was minor, and that he was avoiding an appearance as ordered. The court issued an arrest warrant on the spot.
On June 10, Mr Pichit and his team, representing Mr Thaksin and his wife Khunying Potjaman, were at the court to report the couple had returned from a business trip overseas.
This is big news. Quite frankly, I think getting six months in prison is a slap on the wrist. They should also be barred from ever practicing law ever again. The lawyers excuses are lame and the court would have been justified in giving them serious jail time.
This is probably the beginning of the end of for Thaksin and Potjaman. It looks like they were better off in exile. Now, the court will probably throw the book at them and jail time for that dynamic duo looks like a real possibility.
I can't believe how stupid they are for pulling this stunt with Thailand falling apart at the seams. It just throws fuel on the fire.
I wish the court could prove a conspiracy to bribe them and throw Thaksin and Potjaman in jail for that crime. I doubt the lawyers acted on their own and without permission. If they did, Thaksin would be suing them.
I wonder who is stupid enough to represent the Shinawatras in court now.