Thai anti-graft body to probe Yingluck finances

AFP , Thursday 5 Jun 2014

People react during a military event at the Victory Monument in Bangkok June 4, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Thailand's anti-graft body on Thursday launched an assets probe into deposed premier Yingluck Shinawatra in relation to a bungled rice subsidy scheme that sparked widespread anger.

Yingluck was ousted in a controversial court ruling last month, two weeks before a May 22 military coup.

Her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra -- a divisive former premier -- had $1.4 billion confiscated by a court in 2010.

In addition to Yingluck -- who was a successful businesswoman before turning to politics -- two former commerce ministers and their deputies also face investigations by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

"The NACC has agreed to set up a sub-committee for an assets probe against ministers involved in the rice scheme subsidy under Yingluck Shinawatra's government," the body said in a statement.

If they are found to have profited from the scheme they could have their assets seized, an NACC official told AFP.

The rice subsidy paid farmers up to 50 percent above market rates for the grain.

Some estimates say it cost the Thai public finances $4.6-6 billion a year.

It became a lightning rod for anger among protesters who alleged the scheme punched a hole in Thai finances, battered the rice industry and fostered massive corruption -- all to shore up Yingluck's rural electoral base.

The scheme spectacularly boomeranged on Yingluck at the start of the year as the caretaker government was unable to raise funds to pay thousands of rice farmers for their crops.

Yingluck was indicted by the NACC for dereliction of duty related to the rice policy, a day after she was removed from office.

Her brother Thaksin lives overseas to avoid a prison sentence for corruption -- which he contends was politically motivated -- handed down in the wake of his ousting by an army coup in 2006.

His assets were frozen that year by a committee set up by the generals.

In 2010, the Supreme Court confiscated $1.4 billion of Thaksin's wealth after ruling he abused his power.

Analysts say Thailand's new army rulers are determined to purge Thai politics of the Shinawatra family, who have dominated elections since 2001 with mass support from the rural north and northeast.

Their poll success has roiled the Bangkok-based elite who accuse the family of corruption and cronyism.

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