Thaksin tax will need divine intervention

As a former law student, I had never heard this particular phrase before. It came straight from the mouth of Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, the government's top legal counsel who has served many previous governments in the capacity of cabinet secretary-general because of his extensive legal expertise.

It was speculated that the recent legal initiatives to resolve controversial issues related to the Sangha Supreme Council and Wat Phra Dhammakaya came from Mr Wissanu.

These include an amendment to the constitution to give the King power to appoint the supreme patriarch instead of the council, resulting in an end to the impasse over the appointment of the new supreme patriarch and the stripping of the titles bestowed on Phra Dhammajayo, the elusive former abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya.

I have no idea what the "miracle of law" means. Last week, Mr Wissanu said there was a tiny channel in the legal process that he described as the "miracle of law" through which the government could squeeze capital gains tax out of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.

This refers to the controversial sale of a large stake in the family-owned Shin Corp telecom giant to Singapore's Temasek Holdings in 2006.

My understanding of Mr Wissanu's now-famous phrase is this: his choice of the word "miracle" refers to the fact the government will be betting on a miracle to claim the tax, originally estimated at about 13 billion baht, from Thaksin instead of from his two adult children, Panthongtae and Pinthongta, who benefitted from the share sale.

The Central Tax Court has ruled that tax cannot be demanded from Thaksin's two children because they were merely his nominees.

A miracle is normally used in the context of a desperate situation. We pray for a miracle when someone in our family is critically sick and all medical help has been exhausted.

We scream with joy when our man, who is the underdog, wins a contest miraculously.

So, the government is now betting on miracle to win the tax case against Thaksin in the court of law!

The capital gains tax issue regarding Shin Corp's share sale to Temasek was thought to have become a "dead" issue eight years ago when the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office-Holders ordered the seizure of Thaksin's 46 billion baht worth of assets, including the tax, according to the Revenue Department.

This explains why the department has been reluctant to demand the tax from Thaksin or other members of the Shinawatra family and, for the matter, has been accused of dragging its feet.

But the case was revived -- and the onus put, once again, on the Revenue Department, particularly its chief Prasong Poonthaneat -- when the Office of the Auditor-General notified the department to issue a demand for the tax before the statute of limitations in this case expires on March 31.

Pressured by the OAG, or to be more specific the government, the department sought consultation from the Finance Ministry's tax board headed by deputy permanent secretary Prapas Kong-ied on whether the department could extend the deadline for the summons earlier issued to Thaksin to show up for questioning.

The summons is effective for five years and it is due to expire on March 31.

The tax board ruled that, according to the law, a summons can be extended but it must not cause any damage to the supposed taxpayer, in this case Thaksin.

That is Mr Prasong's dilemma and his persistence that the department cannot demand the tax from Thaksin.

So along came Mr Wisanu with his "miracle of law" idea when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha assigned him to call a meeting of state agencies to discuss the tax issue on March 13 and to determine how to claim the tax under the following conditions: no use of Section 44, only the normal legal process; no extension of the summons, in compliance with the rule of law; and to determine whether the share sale was "honest" or not.

It was reported Mr Wisanu told a recent cabinet meeting that it was impossible to demand tax from Thaksin through normal legal proceedings unless the "miracle of law" was invoked.

With a one-in-a-million chance of winning the case against Thaksin in court, why go to the trouble of reviving the case?

Why go to the trouble when it risks provoking an angry response from Thaksin's supporters?

And, why the witch hunt against the Shinawatra family as former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra laments on her Facebook page?

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