Money offshore

3 11 2017

$7.5 million is, we know, only 248 million baht. Hardly anything really. But we have to admit being interested when we saw this headline:

Red Bull Heir Buys Chicago’s Priciest Home of the Year
Jiravat Yoovidhya bought the 130-year-old mansion for $7.5 million

The report states:

An heir to the Red Bull fortune was the deep-pocketed buyer behind Chicago’s most expensive home sale of the year.

Jiravat Yoovidhya, one of late Red Bull creator Chaleo Yoovidhya’s 11 heirs, and his wife, Supatra, bought the 130-year-old Georgian rowhouse in the posh Gold Coast neighborhood for $7.5 million, property records show. The closing in mid-October marked Chicago’s most expensive on-market transaction for over a year, according to the multiple listing service.

Jiravat’s personal wealth is estimated as $4.08 billion. We can only guess whether the apartment might be a place for that other fugitive Yoovidhya, Vorayuth to hang out while avoiding jail time. Having completed the purchase in mid-October, it can be assumed that Jiravat made it back to Bangkok for the big funeral and looked appropriately austere.





Red Bull in reverse

16 09 2017

We have to admit some surprise that the Red Bull-affiliated Khon Kaen land grab has been wound back so quickly. (While locals have opposed the land grant since 2012, it was only last week that the deal became big news.)

The Bangkok Post reports that “KTD Property Development Co had terminated the contract to use the plot at Huay Mek in tambon Ban Dong in Ubonrat district … [on] Friday…”.

Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda and local and provincial authorities came under heavy pressure on what was clearly a contract issued to the privileged in contravention of laws.

Anupong has also come under pressure on his blimp deal from several years ago.

Despite claims within the local, provincial and central administration that the deal was all legal and followed the correct processes, including local consultation, local residents “stood firm on their contention that they had not signed any letter to show their support for the lease of 31 rai of public land.”

General Anupong had earlier said there would be an inquiry “into the role of ministry officials involved in granting the permit to KTD Property Development.”

Let’s see if that “investigation” goes anywhere. No investigation of junta misdeeds have ever found errors or crimes.

We get the feeling that the junta and Anupong feel the need to avoid multiple accusations against him and links being made to the Red Bull fugitive. The other consideration is that junta’s campaigning.





Red Bull and the privilege of great wealth

12 09 2017

Both the Bangkok Post and Prachatai have stories on demands for Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda to be “investigated” after he signed an order that allowed a private company to make use of a 31-rai community forest in Khon Kaen’s Ubonrat district.

General Anupong issued a land use permit to KTD Property Development, allowing it to construct a water storage facility for an adjacent beverage production plant it owns.

KTD Property Development is said to have connections to the giant Red Bull corporation. Red Bull’s Yoovidhya family are reported to be shareholders of KTD.

We wonder if one of those shareholders is Vorayuth Yoovidhya. He’s the Yoovidhya who is a “suspect” in a brutal hit-and-run case in which a police officer was killed, and who has been allowed to miss court appearances time and again as the various charges he faces time out.

His case is an example of the double standards where the rich get benefits from the support they provide to officials and to the royalist ruling class.

Protecting one Yoovidhya is just another aspect of the work of tycoons and the best “justice” and officials that money can buy. These are the tycoons who treat justice as a business tool to keep the profits flowing. The benefits they enjoy through their wealth and extensive corporate control are counted in baht and dollars.

That seems to be what’s happening in Khon Kaen.

KTD has been buying land in the area for five years and requested that it be allowed to use Huay Mek community forest land in 2015. It is reported that the “local community had repeatedly rejected the request.”

The local level officials reckon that KTD will pay. How much? It is stated that the local administration will “collect an annual fee of 1,000 baht per rai, or about 31,000 baht per year.”

What a deal! For KTD and its Red Bull investors.

That said, we assume the company has invested heavily in local, provincial and national officials.

The ever activist Srisuwan Janya has “filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission to initiate an investigation against Gen Anupong and other high-rank officials of the Interior Ministry.”

Srisuwan and many others reckon General Anupong and his underlings have abused power in favor of a private company.

That support for big business has been a part of the military dictatorship’s “reform” agenda.





Journalists do the state’s work

18 08 2017

The Associated Press’s report on Red Bull family is worth reading in full. It is getting considerable international attention for issues of tax avoidance and the unaccountable power that comes from great wealth in Thailand (and elsewhere).

We won’t repeat it all here. We do recall that, back in May,

“Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the suspect in a brutal hit-and-run case in which a police officer was killed, gave authorities the slip once again by leaving Thailand for an unknown destination on April 25, just two days before he was due to answer charges over the 2012 incident.”

Five years after the allegedly coked-up and drunk rich kid ran over a cop and drove off, dragging the body along, to hide from the law in his gated and guarded family home. Lawyers and fixers got to work.

Five years have produced no justice. How can that be? Vorayuth lived the high life around the world as he avoided justice. Some police and others with power in Thailand were obviously complicit.

PPT said that this case demonstrated how Thailand’s (in)justice system doesn’t work, except for the junta when it wanted to lock up the poor and political opponents.

Vorayuth’s flight and high life around the world was revealed by AP (not the Thai authorities) back in March. It was AP researchers and reporters who tracked him down in London.

Why is it that journalists do this investigations while Thailand’s leaders and state agencies remain silent.

AP’s pursuit of the Red Bull killer and the continuing (manufactured) failure of the Thai authorities to track down a scion of one of Thailand’s richest ($12.5 billion) and most influential families has led to the latest AP story.

Thai authorities will probably now issue statements about how they have been “investigating,” but then go back to their legal slumber, induced by the influential.

AP has trawled the Panama Papers for this story and investigated the Yoovidhya family’s secret money trail, its tax avoidance minimization and its extraordinary efforts to conceal all of this. Their concealing of ownership even baffled Mossack Fonseca, the company that managed its international transfers and concealing.

On Thailand’s failures, the AP story makes that wider than just the Red Bull family:

While other governments were swift and aggressive in responding to Panama Papers revelations, that has not been the case in Thailand. More than 1,400 Thai individuals were identified in the documents, but the government calls the reports rumors with no evidence.

Last year, Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office said it was investigating more than a dozen of those individuals — unnamed current and former politicians and business people. To date, that office has not reported any crimes, however, and it would not answer AP’s questions.

The rich and powerful in Thailand can get away with murder. Readers will soon realize just how scary these plutocrats can be when the AP story interviews Viraphong Boonyobhas, the director of Chulalongkorn University’s business crime and money-laundering databank. It is added:

Viraphong would not speak directly about the Yoovidhyas or any other Thai person or company, saying he feared for his legal and physical safety, but added that his expectations for accountability in the military-run government are low.

Thai authorities have vowed to fight corruption, but “wealthy people in Thailand are influential people,” Viraphong said. “Maybe the government can’t untangle such a complicated network.”

That’s a story about how Thailand is actually run. The whole system is not just built on double standards, but is structured to funnel wealth to the top Sino-Thai tycoons through corrupt military and bureaucratic machinery that, for a fee and reflected “barami,” covers money trails. Ideological devices associated with the obscenely rich monarchy are in place to make the greedy appear among the “good” people who slosh about in troughs of money.





Incessant double standards

7 08 2017

In his weekly column at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson looks at the double standards that define the military dictatorship’s (in)justice system.

In it, he mentions national deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul’s chagrin at not being able to arrest Yingluck Shinawatra supporters last week that “he has their transport dead to rights. He captured 21 taxi and van drivers who drove the fans to the court because they were not licensed to drive in Nonthaburi province where the court is.” He suggests this action was vindictive and petty.

He turns to lese majeste:

On Thursday, the first witness hearing was held in the case of The Regime vs Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, aka Pai Dao Din. The prosecutors call him “that man who liked a Facebook post”.

Which he did, of course. He fully admits it and it’s there on the BBCThai.com website if you need prove it. The “like” was for a biographical news report. It’s a report on which 3,000 other people in Thailand clicked like — but aren’t being prosecuted for lese majeste and computer crime with 30 years of free room and board at state expense in the balance.

As others have, he compares this with the situation of hugely wealthy and influential Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya:

That’s a double standard [Pai’s case]. But the pursuit and persecu… we always get that word wrong, the prosecution of Pai is in stark, massive contrast to the case of a playboy and bon vivant from a family with 10 dollar billionaires. The chase doesn’t even rise to the description of trivial pursuit.

In just a few more days, the rich guy’s case expires. Cop dead, run over and his body dragged along the road by the expensive car, but never mind, attack rural students for being a political activist.

Dawson could have gone on and on.

What of those accused of lese majeste and sentenced for “crimes” against royal personages not covered by the law? Then there are the political activists picked off by junta using lese majeste charges.

Then there are those sent to jail, like Jatuporn Promphan, for defamation of leading anti-democrats, while anti-democrats defaming their opponents remain free. Then there are those who are slapped with sedition charges for pointing out some of junta’s failures (of which there are many).

What of those identified as opponents who are prevented from meeting when “allies” like the members and leadership of the People’s Alliance for Democracy can. And we hardly need to mention the jailing of red shirts for all manner of “crimes” while PAD leaders walk free.

And then there are the double standards when it comes to corruption. The junta is considered squeaky clean, always. “Evil politicians” are always considered corrupt.

Finally, for this post, there is impunity, which is the grossest of double standards. Who stole the 1932 plaque? No investigations permitted. Chaiyapoom Pasae’s murder has disappeared into official silence, so that usually means impunity via cover-up by simply ignoring it as a case against soldiers. The enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is unlikely to be mentioned much at all as the military junta quietly congratulates itself on a “job” well done. It seems a bit like the murder of Kattiya Sawasdipol or Seh Daeng by a sniper in 2010.

Not only is the junta operating with double standards, its sanctions the murder of its opponents. Meanwhile, the justice system in Thailand is broken.





Double standards are the only “standards”

16 07 2017

PPT has several times posted on the undermining of the rule of law under the military dictatorship. The essential underpinning of the junta’s injustice system is double standards.

Readers may have noticed a swathe of cases brought against the junta’s political opponents of late. These include cases against the Shinawatra clan, including laws to be used retroactively, red shirts and anti-coup activists.

At the same time, there have been precious few cases against the junta’s allies. Yellow shirts, where cases go back to at least 2008, have barely been touched. The anti-democrats of 2013-14 have seldom been subject to any legal action, and when they are, the outcomes seem to be benign when compared with the treatment meted out to junta opponents.

Political double standards are everywhere. The latest iteration is the support to rubber growers. Of course, they were supporters of the anti-democrats and the military coup. Yingluck Shinawatra is being tried and harassed for price support to rice growers.

The legal double standards that serve the rich go back decades, but this dictatorship has done nothing to change them. Indeed, the symbolic case of the rich getting away with murder is that involving Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, of the filthy rich Red Bull family, who has been free and living the life of a domestic and international playboy since 2012. Despite occasional movement among authorities, usually caused by media reports, nothing much has happened.

The latest report is that “[p]olice have yet to send a request to the Attorney General’s Office for the extradition of … Boss … accused of killing a policeman in a hit-and-run case five years ago, according to an official in charge of extradition.”

Amnat Chotichai at the Attorney General’s Office said “they were waiting for the request. Amnat stated: “As of now, the police have yet to send us the request. I don’t know what’s causing the delay…”.

Everyone knows what the delay is. It is that the Yoovidhya’s are fabulously wealthy, very powerful and have lots of friends in the regime and in the bureaucracy. The longer they delay, the closer the statute of limitations.

Notice that the puppet National Legislative Assembly was able to vote “unanimously … to pass the controversial draft organic law on criminal procedures for holders of a political position.”

The double standards are so wide that a fleet of buses could be driven through the dictatorship’s gape. The double standards gap expands still further when the military dictators begin to talk of morals.

What can we make of the deputy chairman of the junta General Prajin Junthong telling “education officials” that they need “increase focus on religions in their teaching curriculum”?

Rather like a historical clutch of military and royalist commentators, the general reckons that education is about shaping the lower classes to ruling class ideology. A tepid subaltern class and a strong moral ideology have long served the rich and powerful. Of course, the rich and powerful are not held to this same moral ideology; its just about political control. But it’s also a double standard.

General Prajin declares that education can be dangerous: “Having only education to increase one’s knowledge, ability and talent is not enough…. Because they may use that knowledge in a wrong way and take advantage of other people…”. It is the lack of “religion” in education leads to immorality and corruption.

By “religion,” we can assume that the general means Buddhism, but we can assume that he means particular state-authorized or junta-sanctioned Buddhism. (Certainly not that Wat Dhammakaya stuff!) We can assume this because the general goes on to babble that “schools should also teach their students to appreciate ‘Thainess’.”

“Thainess” and “religion” have little to do with “morals.” For the junta, they mean order and stability, not to say political docility. And, naturally enough, the junta is not bound by “religion” or “morality.” It prefers nepotism, corruption, torture, commissions and unusual wealth.

Double standards? Yep. The junta didn’t invent double standards but has made them stark. In doing so, the junta has seriously undermined justice and the rule of law.





With a major update: Red Bull racing (away)

1 05 2017

It is a widely-known story, in Thailand and beyond. As the Bangkok Post states: “Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the suspect in a brutal hit-and-run case in which a police officer was killed, gave authorities the slip once again by leaving Thailand for an unknown destination on April 25, just two days before he was due to answer charges over the 2012 incident.”

His case demonstrates how Thailand’s (in)justice system doesn’t work, except for the poor and regime political opponents.

His case demonstrates how the rich control the legal system while laughing at notions that rules and laws apply to them. They do this while remaining “good” people and shouting about and paying for loyalty to the throne.

Five years after the allegedly coked-up and drunk rich kid drove over a cop and drove off, dragging the body along, to hide in his gated and guarded family home.

Five years have produced no justice. How can that be?

Because, says “deputy police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen” it is still being “investigated.” He says: “the probe is not being stalled but has been extended to make sure all involved are questioned thoroughly.”

That’s a pile of warm buffalo manure: “The inquiry centres on the police’s handling of the case, which faced heavy criticism after two charges — speeding and reckless driving causing damage to others’ property — were dropped after their one-year statute of limitations expired.”

It is clear that, as in other cases, the rich and powerful have allies and bought-off supporters and interference runners. The rich and powerful have impunity and justice is not for them.

In this latest story, “Boss” has again skipped Thailand for parts unknown (or that’s what the police say).

The “investigators,” who know where he lives and allow him to come and go from Thailand time and time again, are now calling on Interpol to “assist” in finding the rich Vorayuth. No doubt Interpol sees some crappy and incompetent police work and a deal of police corruption, but Thailand’s (in)justice system must be one of the top-ranked for these (manufactured) failures.

Money and loyalty buys a lot of “justice” in Thailand.

Update: In the post above we were writing of justice for the rich. How does justice work for the poor? Here’s an example:

KALASIN — A middle-aged couple appealing harsh punishment for picking mushrooms from a protected forest had their sentences reduced by 10 years by the Supreme Court on Tuesday

Udom Sirisorn and Daeng Sirisorn, 54 and 51 respectively, were handed down reduced sentences of five years by a court in Kalasin province, seven years after they were first convicted of illegal logging there.

In July, 2010, the couple had gone into Kalasin’s Dong Radaeng Forest to collect wild mushrooms for cooking. They were arrested by police and quickly sentenced to 30 years in prison, which was reduced by half because they had confessed.

They first appealed in 2014 but a court upheld their original sentences, and the couple served 17 months in jail before being freed on bail. The controversial sentences for the couple spawned a campaign calling for their release online and complaints about the nation’s double-standard justice system.