Leicester's owners accused of corruption in Thailand

LONDON • The company that owns Leicester City and funded the club's rise to become Premier League champions last year has been accused of multimillion-pound corruption in the operation of its business in Thailand.

King Power, owned and run by the Leicester chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, and his son Aiyawatt, is alleged to have corruptly short-changed the Thai government of its agreed share from the company's lucrative duty-free franchise at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport.

King Power International is accused of criminally failing to pay the Thai state 14 billion baht (S$568.34 million) from the operation of the airport franchise, whose original grant in 2006 required 15 per cent of the income to be paid to the government.

The lawsuit - a copy of which was seen by The Guardian - was filed by Charnchai Issarasenarak, the deputy chairman of a government anti-corruption subcommittee. He alleges that King Power colluded with airport employees to pay the government only a 3 per cent slice of the duty-free takings.

Explaining the legal action to reporters in Thailand, Charnchai said: "We ask the court to accept this lawsuit as a criminal lawsuit, and use the law to punish those who commit wrongdoings. We also ask the court to consider seizing all the 14.29 billion baht from them to the state.

"Nobody should ever gain from this said amount. This case causes substantial damages to the state and is a very severe case."

Two other King Power group companies owned and run by the Srivaddhanaprabha family have also been accused of corruption in the legal action, along with a senior King Power executive. Fourteen officials working for Airports of Thailand have also been named in the action. The lawsuit alleges corrupt misconduct and a failure to act with honesty and integrity.

Charnchai added that he is preparing a further four cases against King Power, which he expects to file in two months. A court decision on whether to accept the first case is expected on July 25, according to reports.

Aiyawatt, Leicester vice-chairman and chief executive of the King Power group, was reported in the Bangkok Post to have denied that the company had breached any laws over the 11 years since it was granted the franchise at the airport.

The Airports of Thailand president, Nitinai Sirisamatthakarn, was also reported to have denied the allegations, saying that King Power had adhered to its contract and paid the correct government fees according to the space occupied at the airport.

It is not clear what impact the case could have on Leicester if it proceeds and succeeds.

Premier League rules prohibit people from owning more than 30 per cent or being a director of a club if they have been convicted of a criminal offence of dishonesty.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Leicester's owners accused of corruption in Thailand'. Print Edition | Subscribe