Thailand: Tax-evasion lawsuit to proceed against Philip Morris

28 May 2019

PUBLIC Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn assured yesterday that a lawsuit against a leading tobacco firm over tax-evasion charges would continue as normal.

“Legal proceedings have already begun and will continue,” Piyasakol said when asked about Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai reportedly asking the PM to put the brakes on the lawsuit. 

The government is suing Philip Morris for evading taxes worth Bt60 billion by allegedly declaring that a pack of cigarettes is sold for Bt7, when in reality a pack of cigarettes is sold for Bt145. 

Dr Hatai Chitanondh, who chairs the Thailand Health Promotion Institute, said last week that the government has solid evidence against the tobacco firm. He also said that the government should not worry about the complaint Manila has filed with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in relation to Thailand’s Customs and Fiscal Measures on cigarettes from the Philippines. Philip Morris has a large manufacturing plant in the Philippines. 

“The dispute filed with the WTO will not result in a fine,” he said. 

He was speaking in response to reports that Don had written a confidential letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha raising concerns about the dispute at the WTO and asking the premier to suspend the lawsuit in the hope of settling the matter out of court. 

Vasin Pipattanacha, an assistant director of the Tobacco Control Research Centre at Mahildol University’s Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, said Thailand was obliged to comply with the World Health Organisation on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

“So, we can’t just focus on the WTO complaint,” he said.

The Nation