The wife of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was arrested after she returned to Thailand yesterday to face charges of corruption and concealing millions of dollars in stock market shares that could put her behind bars for 28 years, authorities said.
Her sudden return added tension to Thailand's unsettled political situation, in which Thaksin's followers are scurrying to form a coalition government following their victory in general elections last month.
Reacting to the return of his wife, Pojamarn Shinawatra, the exiled Thaksin said he would follow her to Thailand at an appropriate time to also fight the same charges against him.
"I insist that my wife and I are ready to fight all charges to prove our innocence," Thaksin said in a statement issued by his lawyers.
Thaksin, who was ousted in a September 2006 military coup for alleged corruption and abuse of power, saw his wife off earlier yesterday in Hong Kong.
Police presented Pojamarn with the first arrest warrant at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport after her arrival and she was later handed a second.
Pojamarn, wearing dark sunglasses and a black suit, was taken to the Supreme Court, where she smiled as she passed a crowd of journalists, escorted by her legal team and police.
The court released her on 5 million baht (US$168,000) bail pending a first hearing on Jan. 23, banning her from leaving the country and doing "anything to obstruct the judicial process or the bail will be revoked."
The case involves Pojamarn's 2003 purchase of some prime Bangkok real estate from the Financial Institutions Development Fund -- a state rescue fund directed by the central bank.
An anti-corruption law bars prime ministers or their spouses from doing business with government agencies.
The Supreme Court issued warrants in August for Thaksin and his wife on charges of conflict of interest and malfeasance. Each charges carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Later in the day, Pojamarn was taken to the Department of Special Investigations and formally read charges in connection with a separate corruption case that alleges she and Thaksin concealed millions of dollars worth of shares in SC Asset, a real estate holding company owned by their family.
Pojamarn could face eight years in prison if convicted.