Thai court rejects lawsuit against company of Leicester City owner

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Charnchai Issarasenarak, anti-graft official and plaintiff in the corruption case against Thai duty-free giant King Power leaves the central corruption court in Bangkok on September 18, 2018. The court dismissed a lawsuit on September 18 accusing King Power, a duty-free giant that owns Leicester City Football Club, for hundreds of millions of dollars over the alleged underpayment of taxes. / AFP PHOTO / Lillian SUWANRUMPHA

A Thai court Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit accusing duty-free giant King Power, the firm that owns Leicester City Football Club, of owing the state more than $430 million in unpaid revenues.

The complaint alleged that King Power executives, working with airport officials, paid a smaller share of revenues than was required to operate in Bangkok’s busy terminals.

It was a rare legal challenge for one of the country’s wealthiest and best-connected businesses.

King Power owns Leicester City Football Club and is controlled by the family of prominent billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

The suit was filed last year by anti-graft official Charnchai Issarasenarak but was thrown out by Bangkok’s Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases.

Charnchai accused King Power of paying substantially less than the contracted 15 percent of annual revenues to Airports of Thailand (AOT).

The total amount owed from 2006 to now is about 14.29 billion baht ($438 million), according to the lawsuit.

The judge on Tuesday dismissed Charnchai’s complaint on the grounds that he did not have “legal authorisation to file a charge” because he was not personally affected.

Charnchai, who became a shareholder of AOT in 2015, said the massive loss in revenues affects the public.

“The country has suffered huge damage,” he said. “The wrongdoing and corruption went on for more than 10 years.”

Charnchai said he would either appeal the case or bring it to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

King Power has previously denied any wrongdoing and filed a number of defamation lawsuits against Charnchai.

The company’s founder Vichai, who started his duty-free empire with a single shop in Bangkok in 1989, today holds a near-monopoly in Thailand’s airports.

His family became celebrated as the owners of Leicester City after the unfancied team took home the 2016 English Premier League Championship.