BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

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BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by buksida » Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:21 pm

A British journalist working for the BBC faces up to five years in a Thai jail after a lawyer brought a criminal defamation case against him over an investigation into fraud on a popular tourist island.

Rights groups say the case is the latest example of how Thailand’s broad defamation and computer crime laws shut down investigative journalism and make it difficult to expose wrongdoing in a country where corruption is endemic.

The prosecution was sparked by a September 2015 report by Jonathan Head, the BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent, looking at how two foreign retirees were scammed out of their properties in Phuket.

Head is due to appear in a Phuket court on Thursday alongside one of the retirees, British national Ian Rance, who is a joint defendant in the prosecution, to enter their plea.

The man bringing the prosecution is Pratuan Thanarak, a Phuket lawyer who featured in the BBC’s report looking at how Rance lost lucrative properties.

Rance retired to Phuket in 2001, married a local woman with whom he had three children and bought what he said were some USD1.2 million (THB42 million) worth of properties.

Under Thai law foreigners cannot own land. But many get around that provision by placing properties in the name of a company they own or with locals they trust.

In 2010 Rance discovered his wife had forged his signature to remove him as director and sell the properties with the help of a network of money lenders and property agents on the island.

She was jailed for four years over the scam.

The BBC’s Head reported that Pratuan, the lawyer, admitted to notarising Rance’s signature without him being present.

Pratuan filed a defamation case alleging the reports caused him to be “defamed, insulted or hated,” according to a copy of the complaint.

Rance and Head face one charge of criminal defamation, which carries a penalty of up to two years in jail. Head faces an additional charge under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act, which has a five year maximum jail penalty.

Head has had to surrender his passport to the court leaving him unable to work across Asia as he fights what is likely to be a two year court battle.

In a statement, the BBC said it “stands by its journalism” and that they “intend to clear the name of our correspondent.”

Story: https://www.afp.com/en/news/205/bbc-jou ... -reporting
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by prcscct » Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:31 pm

More horsesh!t. Will it never end?! :banghead: Pete :cheers:
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by StevePIraq » Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:36 pm

So the lawyer admits to a fraudulent activity then brings a case against a journalist who made it public. My Buddha what a legal system.
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by Nereus » Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:43 pm

The Lawyer probably, and correctly, may think that he will lose. But what is likely to happen is that the case could go on for 10 years on appeals, depriving Head of ever being able to work here again. Face saved, no problem!
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by prcscct » Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:48 pm

StevePIraq wrote:So the lawyer admits to a fraudulent activity then brings a case against a journalist who made it public. My Buddha what a legal system.
Exactly. In any country with a brain it would be thrown out as frivolous. Pete :cheers:
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by Bristolian » Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:24 pm

Phuket Courts are in a class of their own. Defamation is a civil court matter in Europe but here its criminal and is designed to protect those who can afford justice.
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by caller » Thu Feb 23, 2017 8:24 pm

Another foot in mouth moment for Thailand. It's in the Guardian who are always quick to report on any unsavoury report from here. Keeps them pretty busy, really.
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by handdrummer » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:27 am

were it me I'd go the british embassy, get a new passport, cross to another country and go home, never to return here. there are many other places in the world to work.

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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by hhinner » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:06 pm

Maybe Head should file a case alleging the lawyer is damaging Head's reputation as a journalist.

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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by StevePIraq » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:11 pm

To be realistic it is time for Head to get out of Thailand if there is any way he can do so. He has had a few Lese Majeste claims against him, plus other claims, it is quite obvious the knives are out to get him as he stirs things up. The Brit Embassy can do nothing to help him, they cannot give him another passport or help to get him out of Thailand. Most countries have the same guidance for citizens in another country "if you break the law you are on your own".
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by Bristolian » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:34 pm

In one of the newspaper reports it said that JH could continue to travel but would need to fly to Phuket and apply in person to the court explaining the details and purpose of his travel. On hos return he would again need to appear at the court to resubmit his passport. I’m sure that this process would also involve a sizable surety to ensure his return.
Leaving Thailand and not returning should be quite straightforward and I suspect that the court would be very pleased to see the back of him and pocket a sizable sum of cash in process.

Unfortunately this would leave his codefendant, Ian Rance, holding the baby and he has much more to lose as his chances of getting back his reported $1.2 Million loss on the property would become almost zero if he is found guilty of defamation and then imprisoned.
This would be a tough call for JH and the perhaps BBC and leaving may damage both reputations
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by HHTel » Fri Feb 24, 2017 2:51 pm

A well known ex-pm left the country with the court's approval. Never returned!

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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by hhfarang » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:00 pm

HHTel wrote:A well known ex-pm left the country with the court's approval. Never returned!
... yet.
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by margaretcarnes » Sat Feb 25, 2017 7:33 am

A difficult one - Head has crossed the line many times and really should know better by now. It's as if the BBC have let him act like a lose canon in Thailand, because they should have known what he was getting into, and the risks.
As his employer the Beeb maybe believes it can sort out the mess Head is in, but if so it underestimates the way things work.
What we don't know though is how much freedom Head has been allowed in digging for his stories, and whether he has overstepped his BBC remit. If he has overstepped the mark do they abandon him to Thai justice? The alternative would appear to be that the BBC tries to accept responsibility, and I don't believe that would work.
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Re: BBC journalist faces five years in jail for reporting Thai fraud

Post by malcolminthemiddle » Sat Feb 25, 2017 9:09 am

Since
Pratuan, the lawyer, admitted to notarising Rance’s signature without him being present.

I assume that a counter claim has been filed?

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