Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been convicted in absentia for violating the National Counter-Corruption Act. He was charged with facilitating his wife Potjaman's purchase of a plot of land at below market value. The plot, in Bangok's Ratchada district, was sold to Potjaman by the Bank of Thailand in 2003. The Supreme Court judge who announced the verdict today said: "Thaksin had violated the article of the constitution on conflict of interest, as he was then prime minister and head of government who was supposed to work for the benefit of the public. He is sentenced to two years in jail." Notoriously, Thaksin's lawyer, Pichit Cheunban, made a blatant attempt to bribe the judges during the trial, handing over a lunchbox containing 2,000,000 baht in cash.
Thaksin and Potjaman are currently living in exile in London. They jumped bail earlier this year, ostensibly to attend the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics, and have not returned to Thailand since. They were not prevented from leaving the country, and they were carrying a suspiciously large collection of luggage with them. Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006, while he was attending the United Nations in New York; corruption was one of the reasons cited as justification for the coup. A military-appointed Assets Examination Committee froze seventy-six billion baht of Thaksin and Potjaman's assets last year, pending the outcome of an anti-corruption investigation.