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Yingluck Shinawatra trial: Former Thai PM handed five-year sentence

Thailand's Supreme Court has sentenced Yingluck Shinawatra to five years in jail for criminal negligence in a rice subsidy program. The former prime minister was tried in absentia after fleeing the country.

The nine judges on the bench of Thailand's highest court on Wednesday unanimously found Yingluck guilty of negligence over her government's rice subsidy scheme that cost the country billions and led to the toppling of her administration.

"The accused knew that the government-to-government rice contract was unlawful but did not prevent it," the Supreme Court said in a statement. "Which is a manner of seeking unlawful gains. Therefore, the action of the accused is considered negligence of duty."

Yingluck, who pleaded innocent, is believed to have fled the country last month to avoid jail. She is unlikely to serve any of her sentence.

Read more: Thailand's ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra 'fled to Dubai' after court no-show

What happened in court

The court said Yingluck "should have designated reasonable and effective regulations that could concretely prevent loss from the beginning of the program."

- The court said Yingluck knew that members of her administration had falsified government-to-government rice deals but did nothing to stop it. 

- A former commerce minister in her government was jailed for 42 years last month in connection with the scheme.

- Yingluck insisted the charges were politically motivated.

Her government was overthrown in a military coup in 2014. Yingluck's brother, Thaksin, also led an elected government that was ousted by the military and lives in exile to avoid a jail term on corruption charges.

Read more: Analysts say verdict in Yingluck case a foregone conclusion

Supporters of ousted former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck Shinawatra is still popular among rural voters

What was the rice scheme?

The rice scheme was a key campaign pledge, launched after Yingluck took office in 2011.

- The government bought rice from farmers over and above-market prices, leading to stockpiles of the grain and distorted global prices of the commodity.

- It was popular with her rural voter base, but critics complained it was too expensive and susceptible to corruption.

- Losses amounted to $8 billion (€6.81 billion), the government said.

sms/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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