The company which owns Leicester City and funded their rise to become the 2015‑16 Premier League champions is to face multi-million-pound corruption charges in Thailand. A judge at the central court for corruption and misconduct cases ruled at a hearing on Monday that criminal allegations presented in July should go ahead against King Power, the cash-rich company owned and run by the Leicester chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, and his son Aiyawatt.
King Power is accused of having corruptly short-changed the Thai government of 14bn baht (£327m), its agreed share from the company’s lucrative duty-free monopoly at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.
The lawsuit, filed by Charnchai Issarasenarak, the former deputy chairman of a government anti-corruption subcommittee, alleges King Power and one of its executives colluded with airport employees to pay the government only a 3% slice of the duty-free revenues. The original 2006 grant to King Power of the franchise, at one of the world’s busier airports, required 15% of the income to be paid to the government, according to the charges.
King Power said in July that if the case was brought to trial it would be vigorously defended.
King Power bought Leicester City for a reported £39m when the club was in the Championship in 2010, then loaned them more than £100m to sign players and bankroll wages and losses, an investment that paid off spectacularly when they surprisingly won the Premier League title 18 months ago.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha established King Power in 1989 with one small shop in Bangkok, then gained access to major wealth when his company was granted the exclusive franchise for duty-free sales at Suvarnabhumi airport. At the time the prime minister was Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup soon afterwards and fled the country. Thaksin bought Manchester City in 2007 then sold them after a year to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family. In Thailand the military, Thaksin’s bitter rival, remain in charge.
It is not clear whether the case would have any impact on Leicester City if it proceeds and is proven. Premier League rules prohibit people from owning more than 30% or being a director of a club if they have been convicted of a criminal offence of dishonesty, but there is no precedent for companies involved in club ownership, rather than individuals, being charged.
Source: The Guardian