26 Feb 2006

Democrats chase ghosts in S’pore

The Nation, Thailand from Singapore WindowFebruary 14, 2006

THE paper company set up by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 1999, Ample Rich Investments Ltd, has not only been involved in questionable stock transactions, its address in Singapore is also a source of mystery.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and fellow MP Sirichoke Sopha flew to Singapore over the weekend to visit the address of Ample Rich. They suspected that there could be two firms named Ample Rich, one incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven, and another described in Thai documents as having an “English” identity.

However, the opposition MPs could find no sign of either Ample Rich at their declared Singapore addresses.

At a news conference yesterday, Sirichoke displayed pictures of the building supposed to house Ample Rich at 185A Goldhill Centre at 51 Thomson Road in Singapore.

The address is occupied by a firm called Kimberly Global and its staff knew nothing about Ample Rich, he said.

“The Commerce Ministry must investigate why Ample Rich has failed to use a real address,” the Democrat executive committee member said.

“Now it is clear that 185A Goldhill Centre is not the address of Ample Rich. Let me ask the prime minister: What have you been doing? Does this company really exist? Or it is just an address submitted to the Commerce Ministry?

“This is something the Commerce Ministry must investigate because Ample Rich might not exist in Singapore. Is this another attempt to conceal the stocks [of Shin Corp]?”

On January 23, Karnjanapha Honghern, a secretary of the premier’s wife Khunying Pojaman Shinawatra, submitted a 246-2 form to the Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of Ample Rich informing the watchdog of the company’s intention to sell 329.2 million shares (about 10 per cent) of Shin Corp.

She gave Ample Rich’s address as 185A Goldhill Centre, 51 Thomson Road, Singapore 307629. (The Nation’s correspondent in Singapore also failed to find any sign of Ample Rich at this address.)

At the same time Karnjanapha was acting on behalf of Ample Rich she notified authorities that two of the premier’s children would acquire 329.2 million shares of Shin Corp at Bt1 apiece. On that same day, Thaksin’s son Panthongtae and daughter Pinthongta sold the Shin shares for Bt49.25 apiece to Temasek Holdings as part of the Singaporean firm’s Bt73-billion takeover of the conglomerate.

The transactions shocked Thailand and sparked an investigation of Ample Rich by the opposition Democrats.

Ample Rich, owned by Panthongtae and Pinthongta, held 10 per cent of the shares of Shin Corp on the foreign board of the Stock Exchange of Thailand. The Shinawatra and Damapong families held a combined 39 per cent of Shin’s shares on the main board. Together, they held about 1.4 billion shares, or almost 50 per cent of Shin Corp before the sell-off.

Korbsak Sabhavasu, a former Democrat MP, has found evidence that suggests there were two firms named Ample Rich, one incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and another described as having an “English” identity in Thai documents.

He displays a document on his website, www.korbsak.com, showing that as of April 30, 2001, the Ample Rich incorporated in the British Virgin Islands held 22.92 million shares of Shin Corp (before a share split). Its address is listed as 57 Ubi Avenue 1 #07-03, Singapore 408936.

The Ample Rich referred to as “English” in a Thai document held 10 million Shin shares (before the share split) and was located at 185A Goldhill Centre, 51 Thomson Road, Singapore 307629.

The firm incorporated in the British Virgin Islands reduced its stake by 10 million shares, or 100 million after the share split. Ample Rich (“English”) traded the Shin stock for a profit then disappeared without a trace.

On April 23 last year, the firm incorporated in the British Virgin Islands reported that it held 229.2 million Shin shares, Korbsak said.

But as of August 26, 2005, UBS AG, Singapore Branch held 329.2 million Shin shares in an account for Ample Rich.

The amount is equal to what Thaksin moved from the main board to the foreign board in 1999.

Korbsak asked whether Ample Rich had been involved in insider trading because it bought 100 million Shin shares to rebuild its portfolio to the original 329.2 million shares about five months before the Temasek deal.

However, Suvarn Valaisathien, the lawyer representing the Shinawatra family, had insisted there was only one Ample Rich, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, and that this company never traded its Shin stocks.

Thaksin, in his weekly radio address on Saturday, also denied he had set up twin Ample Riches. There is only one and it was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, he insisted.

He transferred ownership of Ample Rich to Panthongtae in 2000 and his son has relied on professional fund managers to look after the company since them, Thaksin said.

Sirichoke said he also visited the second address given for Ample Rich. But no one in the neighbourhood of 57 Ubi Avenue 1 had heard of the firm, but because it was a holiday he could not verify whether or not an Ample Rich was located there.

“If I have time I’ll go to Singapore again to conduct another investigation,” he said.

Abhisit had been invited to Singapore to speak to the media there about the city-state’s image in Thailand following Temasek’s takeover of Shin Corp.

He also met Lee Hsien Yang, CEO of Singapore Telecommunications, which holds a 20-per-cent stake in Shin subsidiary Advanced Info Service


Anonymous said...

thaksin was shuffling assets within the family, in a way to avoid tax, using ghost companies; investigators have found some actions to have violated procedures and will result in fines

Anonymous said...

Recalled soon after the tsunami, LHL and his kaki paid a visit to Thailand. Surprisingly, there was no media report on this visit as requested by (don't who). But one or two days later, it was featured that thaksin personally drove visitors around the country in his car. Probably it was this time a deal was proposed.

Anonymous said...

chinese have a saying: human reckoning not as good as heaven reckoning; like the Dubai port deal, things can unravel in unexpected ways