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Pin determined to fight extradition


FINANCIER Pin Chakkaphak should have been one of the keenest observers of the extradition hearings against Gen Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, for he may share his fate.

Last week the frail Pinochet, 84, won a battle for his freedom after Jack Straw, the British home secretary, ruled that because of his poor health Britain would not proceed against him,.

On Thursday Pinochet was allowed to return to Chile.

Eighteen months ago Pinochet arrived in the United Kingdom for back treatment. He was subsequently arrested after Spain lodged an extradition request.

Pinochet was accused of the murder of more than 3,000 Chilean nationals.

He went through bitter court battles, sparking an emotional political debate both inside and outside the UK.

Pin Chakkaphak, too, is a man with a past that is shadowing him.

He was arrested in the UK in December following an extradition request by the Thai government.

He has been charged with embezzling some Bt2.1 billion from Finance One Plc, the company of which he was president.

Finance One collapsed in early 1997, with a bill of almost Bt40 billion footed by Thailand's taxpayers.

Pin is putting up a big fight, claiming he would not get justice if he were sent home to stand trial in a Thai court.

There is a slight difference between the Pinochet and the Pin affairs: Pinochet wanted to go home; Pin does not.

"I won't receive a fair trial in Thailand, and I have no faith in the Thai justice system," Pin recently told Reuters Television.

Just before the Bow Street Magistrate's Court in London took up evidence to decide whether to proceed with an extradition hearing against him, Pin's solicitors last week tried to quash the proceedings outright.

Alan Jones, Pin's solicitor, said on Tuesday that in three to four weeks he would file an application on behalf of his client to the High Court to quash the extradition proceedings.

He argued that some of the charges brought against Pin by the Thai government, such as conspiracy and fraudulent trading, were not relevant to UK extradition law. Jones' tactic is seen by Thailand as an attempt to delay proceedings.

Jones said he expected the High Court would set a hearing for June or July to decide either when the extradition application would be heard or if some of the charges should be dropped.

Then he expected the Magistrate's Court to set a date for a full hearing of extradition proceedings in September.

"But whether the High court will take up Pin's application is another question," said Wisit Wisitsora-ath, who heads the Legal Execution Department at Thailand's Central Bankruptcy Court.

Wisit explained that the High Court was similar to Thailand's Central Court.

"A Magistrate's Court handles minor cases and is equivalent to a Thai district court. The Magistrate's Court that covers the Pin case is in Bow Street and so is called Bow Street Magistrate's Court," he said.

The High Court normally reviews and deliberates civil cases and can overrule the Magistrate's Courts; higher again is the House of Lords, Wisit said.

Pin last week said he might appeal to the House of Lords.

Again, whether the House of Lords would take up the Pin case is another question.

Within the House of Lords there are more than 10 legal lords responsible for judicial affairs. After the House of Lords, the case would progress to minister Straw, who would have the final say, because an extradition is a political decision, as in most countries, including Thailand.




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