Thaksin on the Defensive as Pojaman is Convicted; Consequences for City?

Manchester City supporters are doing their level best to act as if this is just another normal preseason.As City combine early UEFA Cup action with high-profile friendlies against the likes of Hamburg, Celtic, and AC Milan, City supporters are in the usual routine of scrambling to find online TV feeds, evaluating early season performances, and speculating about transfers.

It’s a safe bet that the vast majority of those supporters are better qualified at the moment to comment on the promise of Ched Evans, the comeback of Valeri Bojinov, and the seeming travails of Felipe Caicedo than is the Blues’ owner. While the preseason has been going on, Thaksin has been locked in a series of legal battles back in Thailand.

The first shoe to drop in the long-awaited series of corruption trials came last week when Thaksin’s wife Pojaman was convicted and sentenced to prison for fraudulent tax evasion. Not only was Pojaman convicted, she was subjected to a stinging public rebuke from the sitting judge who faulted her for failing to set a good example. Thaksin and his family were on hand at the court, and Thaksin was described by one journalistic account as “shell-shocked” by the events. Pojaman is out on bail and appeals will delay any actual prison time.

Thaksin still has at least three cases pending against him, and analysts in Bangkok are wondering what his next move will be. One rumour has the couple going to China for the forthcoming Olympics never to return; others regard that prospect as unlikely. In any case, it is clear that unlike in the past Thaksin cannot control or manipulate the courts and consequently his position is tenuous.

All of this likely means that City fans should perhaps continue to enjoy their delusions of normalcy. The idea that Thaksin will plow lots of money into the club has certainly been put on hold–while the signing of 18 million pound Jo was a significant outlay, only defender Tal Ben Haim has been added to the side since then. Meanwhile rumours about the possible sales of Vedran Corluka and Elano continue to circulate.

Mark Hughes apparently still has resources available to him, but is not acting like a man with a war chest. Any improvement–or simply matching–of City’s league position this year will owe itself more to Hughes’s management of the available players rather than an influx of new talent. The guess here is that the squad on hand, while potentially very good, isn’t top six material.

But the bigger problems remain off the pitch. At a minimum, City is owned by a man who is thousands of miles away from City and can’t possibly have his finger on the pulse of the club, given the other things on his mind. Quite possibly, Thaksin will himself eventually get convicted, triggering questions as to the appropriateness of his ownership of City via the “fit-and-proper-person” test. If Thaksin is forced to divest the club, it’s safe to say an unholy mess is likely to transpire. No one knows what City’s books actually look like at the moment and there’s no guarantee that the club’s long-term interests would be safeguarded by Thaksin should he be forced to sell.

All that is still a few months off, of course, but the likelihood of Manchester City’s owner being convicted as a criminal has risen dramatically in recent weeks. Only further political upheaval in Thailand of sufficient strength to alter the existing political dynamic is likely to save Thaksin’s skin now.

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