|Thaksin Shinawatra pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in the charge of using his political influence to win his wife a sweetheart property deal. This is the first case of corruption charges to reach court over accusations against him by military-backed investigators. His wife Pojaman has already pleaded not guilty in the same case.|
The court also ruled that Thaksin does not have to attend every hearing in his trial. He has already been granted court permission to travel to Britain for four weeks, and is expected to leave Thailand later in the week.
His lawyer Pichit Cheunban said they are confident that they can answer all questions and defend against any accusations by the prosecutors.
Pichit also added that Thaksin requested permission not to attend every hearing so that his travel plans would not hold up the case.
The Asset Scrutiny Committee, appointed by the generals who ousted Thaksin in a bloodless 2006 coup, charged Thaksin, 46 cabinet ministers and other top officials for llegal use of funds and wrongly approving and operating the state lottery from 2003 to 2006.
If the Supreme Court accepted the case, Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee and two junior ministers, three of the 47 named in the graft charge, would be required by law to step aside while the trial is conducted. A compensation of 15 billion baht ($500 million) to the state is seeked by the ASC, ASC lawyer Sitichoke Sicharoen said.
Thaksin, who returned to Thailand last month and insists his political career is over, denied any wrongdoing. "I am not worried. I did nothing wrong," Thaksin told reporters.
Thaksin had to seek permission first for his intended three-week overseas trip on Thursday, focusing on the English Premier League's Manchester City soccer club, which he bought while in exile
Thaksin will appear in court on Wednesday to face corruption charges related to his wife's purchase of a prime piece of land in Bangkok from the Bank of Thailand.
The ASC has also frozen nearly $2 billion of Thaksin's assets in Thailand, citing allegations of graft and abuse of power and has until June to sort all Thaksin related cases under the present democratically-elected civilian government.
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