Thai PM Denies Corruption Charges in Debut Court Appearance
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra took the stand Monday to make an emotional last-ditch defence against corruption charges that could end his four-month-old leadership.
Thousands of supporters gave Thaksin a rousing welcome as he arrived at the Constitutional Court to deliver the closing argument against allegations he deliberately concealed part of his huge fortune in a 1997 filing.
Thaksin said he had "erred in good faith" by failing to declare 10.5 billion baht (233 million dollars) in assets -- part of the telecommunications empire he built before entering politics.
"It was never my intention to conceal my wealth," he said in his debut appearance at the court. "It is just impossible for me to keep track of my fortune... and the errors can be attributed to oversight."
Apparently on the verge of tears, Thaksin appealed to the judges not to bring down a guilty verdict that would earn him a five-year ban from politics and force him to step down from the leadership.
"Whether I will have the opportunity to contribute my best to the country depends on the court," he said.
"The court will decide whether to allow this prime minister to serve the people and the country."
In the prosecution's closing statement, NCCC secretary-general Klanarong Chanthick hammered home charges that Thaksin and his wife deliberately hid the assets in order to evade tax and breach laws on insider trading.
"Thaksin did not tell the truth when he claimed they did not try to conceal the share transactions," he told the court – BANGKOK (AFP)
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