Thai court fines Philip Morris $39.7 million for tax evasion

Business
Gerald Margolis

Gerald Margolis, center left, branch manager of Philip Morris in Thailand, talks to reporters at Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. The court has found the local unit of tobacco giant Philip Morris guilty of evading taxes by under-declaring the value of cigarettes it imported from the Philippines, and ordered the company to pay a fine of 1.2 billion baht ($39.7 million). (AP Photo)

BANGKOK (AP) — A court in Thailand on Friday found the local unit of tobacco giant Philip Morris guilty of evading taxes by under-declaring the value of cigarettes it imported from the Philippines. It ordered the company to pay a fine of 1.2 billion baht ($39.7 million).

The Criminal Court found Philip Morris Thailand as a company guilty but acquitted seven employees for lack of evidence they were responsible. The company said it would appeal the ruling.

Thailand’s state prosecutor filed criminal charges in 2017 against the company, accusing it of evading more than 20 billion baht ($662 million) in taxes between 2003 and 2006.

The case triggered an international trade dispute, with the Philippines charging that Thailand’s import tariffs were unfairly used to give an advantage to the state-controlled Thailand Tobacco Monopoly. Manila won a ruling from the World Trade Organization that Thai customs authorities were unfair and had not acted according to WTO rules.

Philip Morris consistently maintained that the charges against it were meritless, and that “both Thai and World Trade Organization authorities have confirmed that our declared import prices comply with Thai and international customs laws.”

The case began in 2006, when the Department of Special Investigation — Thailand’s FBI — began an investigation after Thailand’s Excise Department filed a complaint. The case was dropped by Thai prosecutors in 2011 but launched again in 2013.

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