Sondhi loses appeal in SEC case

The Appeals Court on Thursday upheld the lower court's 20-year jail sentence for Sondhi Limthongkul, founder of the Manager Media Group, and two former Manager directors for falsifying loan documents and fraud.

The two former Manager directors are Ms Saowalak Thiranujanyong and Ms Yupin Chantana.

There were initially four defendants in the case, but only three appealed against the lower court's decision.  The other defendant - Suradet Mukyangkoon, also a former Manager director - did not appeal.

In October 2000, in a case filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the prosecution indicted the four men in the Criminal Court, accusing Sondhi and the three former Manager directors of falsifying loan guarantee documents to secure a 1.08- billion-baht loan by the company from Krung Thai Bank without first seeking approval from the board of directors of Manager.

The loan was arranged by The M Group, a private company controlled by Sondhi and a major shareholder in the listed Manager Media Group.

The Manager Media Group was listed as a guarantor of the loan by Krung Thai to The M Group, with  Sondhi, Suradet, Saowalak and Yupin, in their capacity as Manager directors, signing the guarantee document.

The SEC said the Manager board was unaware of the transaction, which was also not disclosed in the listed company's financial statements. The M Group later defaulted on the Krung Thai Bank loan, resulting in Manager becoming liable for repayment and incurring damage totalling 259 million baht as a result, according to the SEC.

The four also falsified documents to mislead Krung Thai Bank into thinking that the guarantee by Manager was properly authorised by the company's board, and later colluded to prevent disclosure of the guarantee by the listed company to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

On Sept 17, 2012 the Criminal Court found them guilty and sentenced Sondhi and Saowalak to a total of 85 years in prison, Suradet to five years in jail, and Yupin to 65 years in jail.

Because of their confession, the jail terms were halved to 42 years and six months for Sondhi and  Saowalak, two years and six months for Suradet, and 32 years and six months for Yupin.

Since the law limits prison terms for offences under the securities law to 20 years, the sentences for Sondhi, Saowalak and Yupin were reduced to 20 years.

All of them, except Suradet, appealed.

The Appeals Court upheld the Criminal Court's decision.

After hearing the judgement, Sondhi submitted an application for bail, offering a 10 million baht surety, pending an appeal to the Supreme Court.

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