BANGKOK - Company that owns Leicester City and funded the club’s rise to become 2016 Premier League champions has been accused of multimillion-pound corruption in the operation of its business in Thailand.
King Power, owned and run by the Leicester chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his son Aiyawatt, is alleged to have corruptly short-changed the Thai government of its agreed share from the company’s lucrative duty free franchise at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.
King Power International is accused of criminally failing to pay the Thai state 14bn baht (£327m) from the operation of the airport franchise, whose original grant in 2006 required 15 percent of the income to be paid to the government.
The lawsuit, a copy of which was seen by the Guardian was filed by Charnchai Issarasenarak, deputy chairman of a government anti-corruption subcommittee. He alleges that King Power colluded with airport employees to pay the government only a 3 percent slice of the duty free takings.
King Power bought Leicester City for a reported £39m in 2010, when the club were in the Championship, and then loaned the club more than £100m on players, wages and bankrolling losses, which were written off after the club won promotion to the Premier League in 2014.
“We ask the court to accept this lawsuit as a criminal lawsuit, and use the law to punish those who commit wrongdoings. We also ask the court to consider seizing all the 14.29bn baht from them to the state. Nobody should ever gain (anything) from this said amount ... This case causes substantial damages to the state and is a very severe case,” explaining the legal action, Charnchai in Thailand.
Two other King Power group companies owned and run by the Srivaddhanaprabha family have also been accused of corruption in the legal action, along with a senior King Power executive.
Fourteen officials working for Airports of Thailand have also been named in the action. The lawsuit alleges corrupt misconduct and a failure to act with honesty and integrity.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha established King Power in 1989 with one small shop in Bangkok, then attained major wealth in 2006 when his company was granted the exclusive franchise for duty free sales at Suvarnabhumi airport, said to be the 12th busiest in the world. At the time the prime minister of Thailand was Thaksin Shinawatra, who was later ousted in a military coup.
The successors and bitter rivals to Shinawatra, who owned Manchester City from July 2007 to September 2008, remain in charge of the country.
The lawsuit alleges that the requirement on King Power to pay 15 percent of the revenues to the government was agreed when the contract was signed in 2006.
The current prime minister of Thailand, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has been named by Charnchai as a witness in the case, along with 32 other people; 50 documents have been submitted in support.
Charnchai has said that he is preparing a further four cases against King Power, which he expects to file in two months. A court decision on whether to accept the first case is expected on 25 July, according to reports.
“Filing a lawsuit against someone isn’t fun,” Charnchai said.