By THE NATION
“There has been no evidence solid enough to convict the defendants on the charges levelled against them,” the court said.
The 13 defendants included several members of the Rojrungrangsee family and various firms such as OA Transport, Royal Paradise, Bangkok Handicrafts, Royal Gems and Thai Herb.
Public prosecutors had charged them with racketeering, money laundering and violating tourism and tour guide laws.
The case came up at the time authorities launched a crackdown on tour operators that reportedly offered Chinese visitors free or very low-cost hotel and flight packages to Thailand but then lured them into buying overpriced souvenirs during the trips.
Public prosecutors said such deceptive tours had blemished Thailand’s image, causing at least Bt10 billion in damage.
All defendants denied any wrongdoing and produced evidence to substantiate their claims of innocence.
Based on the evidence, the court ruled that the defendants were not tour operators but just provided bus services and products to tour operators.
These defendants were not the ones who brought the tourists from China.
“Investigators never inspected the defendants’ shops or places of business,” the court noted.
The defendants showed proof that they operated a fleet of more than 2,000 buses and ran shops before being arrested unfairly.
All the defendants beamed upon hearing the verdict, but refused to give any interviews to the media when they left the courtroom.
The Civil Court has already seized more than Bt3.6 billion of their assets with the intention to turn them into state property. Also in temporary custody are many of their buses.
The defendants, some of whom were prominent businessmen before the zero-dollar tour scandal broke, said they would hold a press conference on their next moves at a later time.