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Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 15:42 UK

Bribe case tarnishes Thai ex-PM

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Thailand's former Prime Minister and owner of Manchester City football club, Thaksin Shinawatra, arrives at Rajamangala stadium prior to a soccer friendly match between his team and Thailand All Stars in Bangkok, Thailand Saturday, May 17 2008.
The case could jeopardise Mr Thaksin's chances of a political comeback

Three lawyers representing the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been sentenced to six months in jail for trying to bribe court judges.

The cash was delivered to the court hidden in a cake box.

The Thai media are calling it "Pastrygate" - and it has left Mr Thaksin with plenty of egg on his face.

Mr Thaksin, who was ousted by a military coup, returned from exile this year, but still faces several charges of abuse of power and corruption.

Two weeks ago, two lawyers walked into the Supreme Court, which is hearing a high-profile case against Mr Thaksin and his wife, and left a bag with court officials, telling them to enjoy its contents.

Inside was a cake-box - but instead of a cake, there were bundles of cash, worth around $60,000 (£30,500).

Suspicion immediately fell on Mr Thaksin's lawyers - but they insisted such a crude attempt at bribery was beneath them. More likely, they said, it was intended to discredit Mr Thaksin.

But, after a two-week investigation, the Supreme Court has found otherwise - it has sentenced the former prime minister's chief lawyer and two assistants to six months in jail for contempt of court.

Which leaves Mr Thaksin with a weakened defence team and a tarnished image.

Comeback in question

The case against him is pivotal to his future.

It concerns an alleged illegal land purchase by his wife while he was in office. If found guilty they could both be jailed, and his prospects for a political comeback would look dim.

The government, now led by his allies, has tried to amend the new constitution, in the hope of weakening the momentum behind the cases against Mr Thaksin - but has been forced to back down.

The new charter, which was drafted by the military last year, gives much greater power to Thailand's top courts - leading some Thais to argue that the judiciary now risks being embroiled in the long-running political contest between Mr Thaksin and his opponents.




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