Thursday, September 19, 2019

Don cleared to retain Cabinet post as court says wife complied with shareholdings rule

Oct 31. 2018
File photo: Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai
File photo: Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai
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By THE NATION

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THE CONSTITUTIONAL Court ruled yesterday that Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai can retain his Cabinet seat, as his wife had complied with the new rule on share ownership within the legal deadline.

The current regulation, in effect since April last year, prohibits Cabinet members and their spouses from holding shares equal to more than 5 per cent in any company.

The shareholding of Don’s wife Narirat in the companies Panawong and Panawong Realty exceeded the legal limit of 5 per cent of all company shares when the current regulation took effect on April 4, 2017.

However, four days after the statute came into force, Don’s wife made a written request for about half of her shares to be transferred to their 35-year-old son, Puen Pramudwinai. As a result, her total shareholdings decreased to 4 per cent. 

Documents on Narirat’s share ownership transfers were dated April 27, 2017 for Panawong, and April 30, 2017 for Panawong Realty. The share transfers took place within the legal deadline of 30 days after the current regulation became effective.

By majority vote, the Constitutional Court found that Don’s wife had complied with the law relating to share ownership by Cabinet members and their spouses and he should therefore not lose his Cabinet post.

The case against Don was brought to court by the Election Commission (EC) following a complaint filed by Pheu Thai Party politician Ruangkrai Leekitwattana in May last year. 

Don, 68, said after the court ruling that this case had affected his work as he was preoccupied by the need to prepare relevant documents for the court.

The foreign minister said on Tuesday on the sidelines of a mobile Cabinet meeting in Chiang Rai that he was not worried about the case and that he would attend the reading of the court verdict yesterday.

The verdict made a Cabinet reshuffle unnecessary, as the foreign minister’s seat did not need to be filled. A veteran diplomat, Don has served as foreign minister since the post-coup government was formed in 2014.

In June, Don declared that his wife’s stockholdings should not disqualify him from holding his ministerial seat, saying the assets had been reported to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on at least four occasions in accordance with the law.

At that time, the Foreign Ministry said Don’s wife received the shares from her father as an inheritance 37 years ago. They were not concessionary shares but were shares held within the family and not listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, it explained. 

The shareholders consist of his wife’s relatives and the shares have remained untouched ever since they were inherited, the ministry added.

The EC confirmed that Don had declared his wife’s stockholdings to the NACC on four occasions, more than the legal limit.

Narirat’s shares in Panawong, as shown in Don’s second asset declaration in August 2015, showed that she held 7,200 shares, equivalent to a 12-per-cent stake, according to the Isra News Agency. 

Her shareholdings in Panawong Realty totalled 3,500 shares, accounting for 17.5 per cent of the total. 

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