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September 1, 1999
Invoking Buddha, Rakesh Saxena's Lawyer Tries To Keep Him Away From 'Lynching' Mob In Thailand
A P Kamath
Russ Chamberlain, the flamboyant Vancouver attorney, is well-known for handling high profile cases.
But Rakesh Saxena, Chamberlain's most controversial client, towers abovethe likes of Johal. For the 48-year-old trader reportedly embezzled $ 88 million from the Bangkok Bank of Commerce, triggering the fall of the baht and the collapse of the Thai economy.
Chamberlain is working overtime to make sure that his client is not extradited to Thailand. Saxena has said he fears he will be lynched in Thailand as the government wants to make him the fall guy for the failures of its bankers and politicians.
This week, Chamberlain invoked Buddha in telling the Supreme Court in Vancouver that the affidavits of Thai witnesses are not valid because the witnesses were not sworn before Buddha as the law in Thailand requires.
Chamberlain told the court on Monday that the new affidavits the Thai government is offering should also be invalidated. The Thai government says the new affidavits will confirm that the original witness statements were taken under proper oath, but the attorney is not convinced.
Saxena, who fled Thailand just as the Asian crisis was unwrapping, was arrested in Canada four years ago, He has been fighting his extradition since then, living in a highly wired apartment that cost him nearly Canadian $ 500,000 He spends over $ 45,000 a month for security guards who accompany him to the court and to his lawyer.
Chamberlain is questioning the validity of the documents in Supreme Court Justice Frank Macsko's court.
Saxena is accused of siphoning $ 88 million to the City Trading Corporation in the Cayman Islands, but he rejects the charge that he and his friends owned CTC. On the other hand, he asserts it was controlled by the Bangkok Bank of Commerce which made the loan, but the loan never left the bank The bank, he claims, was trying to hide its own chaos and was avoiding a bankruptcy situation. While it hoped the economy would bounce back, just the opposite happened, Saxena says.
Though Saxena is out on bail, the court has put severe restrictions on his movement; he is electronically monitored, and since he is ordered to stay away from alcohol, there are surprise sobriety tests he must take.
Bangkok newspapers have published reports linking many Thai politicians to the scandal, and Saxena says he feels he would be killed to maintain his silence.
Bangkok newspapers alleged that Saxena identified ailing Thai companies, start investing in them, got them reorganized and helped sell them for substantial profits.
The news accounts paint him as a scheming, relentlessly ambitious man who began pilfering the Bangkok Bank in a big way in 1995. There are suggestions he engineered the disappearance of more than $ 300 million from Thailand into the accounts held by him and his friends.
When the bill of exchange for the $ 88 million loan was found useless, banks collapsed, Thai newspapers say and the confidence in the baht was shaken. The financial crisis not only hit Thailand but a number of Asian countries.
Indore-born Saxena, who has a master's degree in English from St Stephen's college in Delhi, chased financial dreams, working in Hong Kong, Europe and Sierra Leone where he had stakes in the diamond and mineral mines.
He settled down in Thailand in 1985 when that country was going through a big boom and endeared himself to publishers, bankers and politicians there.
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