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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Thai PM acquitted in assets case
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
Mr Thaksin has been found not guilty
The Thai constitutional court has acquitted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of assets concealment.

The prime minister had faced a five-year ban from politics if the court upheld a December ruling that he deliberately hid assets from his huge personal fortune while he was deputy prime minister in 1997.

Mr Thaksin denied deliberately concealing his wealth, blaming confusion about the law.

Local media reports said that the judges voted 8-7 in favour of clearing Mr Thaksin. The full ruling will be published shortly.

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Many commentators believed Mr Thaksin would be found guilty, and would have to appoint a close ally as his successor.

But Mr Thaksin had always denied any wrongdoing, saying that his failure to declare all of his assets had been an "honest mistake".
Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra with Buddhist monks
Thaksin's party is by far the largest in parliament
Mr Thaksin's party, Thai Rak Thai (Thai Love Thai), won a landslide in general elections in January when the case was already well known.

Supporters had submitted mass petitions to the court, calling for his acquittal.

The BBC's Jonathan Head says that the court ruling will be a blow to the efforts of reformers to build a clean and rule-based democracy.

The National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC) indicted Mr Thaksin in December for failing to declare millions of dollars of company shares owned by him and his wife but held in the names of other people, including some of their domestic servants.

In April the constitutional court began two months of hearings on whether to uphold the NCCC ruling. Judges have been considering their verdict since June.

The 52-year-old is one of Thailand's richest people, having made his fortune in telecommunications.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok
"The legal case against Mr Thaksin appeared very strong"
See also:

18 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM declares innocence
04 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM hits back at probe
14 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand monks in pro-Prime Minister rally
03 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Thailand
03 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Thailand
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