On August 26 the Supreme Court’s criminal division for political officeholders returned a guilty verdict against 19 former Krung Thai Bank employees for colluding on and abetting the irregular approval of a Bt9-billion loan.
First, it proved that the court had real teeth and is prepared to exercise its authority to the fullest extent. Second, the mass convictions struck a historic blow against white-collar crime in Thailand. Third, all of the offenders dutifully turned up to face the verdict in court, except one, still debatably the ringleader – aka the “big boss”. Fourth, the combined age of the offenders stood at over 1,000 years, the case having taken a full 12 years to be completed.
During those years, the lives of the 19 defendants were turned upside down. Lawyers’ fees mounted to exorbitant levels. The worries, stress and anxiety grew exponentially as time went by. Some in the dock wished that the “coup de grace” would come quickly so as to end their misery. During the whole time, their families agonised with them. Hundreds of innocent bystanders got swept under by the riptide.
Two weeks after the monumental verdict, one of those found guilty passed away from liver cancer. Some observers reckoned it was a blessed escape from years of confinement. But however one looks at it, in humanitarian terms the event was a tragedy. How many more now face the same fate as their only means of escape from prison? After all, jail terms of between 12 and 18 years mean many offenders will be pushing 100 before they get the chance to walk this Earth as free men again.