Tobacco giant Philip Morris denies tax evasion charge in Thai court

BANGKOK, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Tobacco giant Philip Morris International's Thai unit Monday denies tax evasion charges in the Criminal Court of Thailand.

Thai prosecutors accused eight executives from the Thai unit of the company of dodging massive import tax by under-declaring the value of 272 batches of its L&M and Marlboro cigarettes from Philippines between 2003 and 2006.

The total cost of all the imported goods and the evaded tax amounts to some 20 billion baht (570 million USD).

Four other foreign executives have also been charged but have left the country.

According to Thai customs law, if convicted, the company could be fined fourfold of the unpaid tax plus the value of the imports and those defendants could face a maximum of 10 years in jail.

The company denies the allegations as they did before.

"We would like to encourage the Thai government to reconsider these meritless charges which will harm Thailand's standing in the trade community and ultimately cause damage to the Thai economy and thus the Thai people," said managing director of Philip Morris Thailand, Alejandro Paschalides in a statement.

Lawyer of the defendants asked the court for time to check those documents presented by prosecutors as evidence and the court thus arrange a meeting for both sides to discuss the case in June and the next hearing for October.

The probe into this case started in 2006, but has spanned the past 10 years. In 2011, the attorney general at the time recommended against charging the tobacco giant, but prosecution restarted two years later.

The Office of the Attorney General announced in January this year that it has filed formal charges against the company in the Criminal Court.

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