The Premiership has quite a few owners who have dabbled in shady business dealings before. Tom Hicks, co-owner of Liverpool has used his political patronage to leverage cozy business deals for him and his business partners. Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s owner and one of the original band of 23 oligarchs who benefited from their close connections with the late Boris Yeltsin and Anatoly Chubais, has been investigated by Swiss authorities for operating slush funds using IMF money. The investigations ended in tragic circumstances when the investigating magistrate was beaten unconscious in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Now Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed PM of Thailand, who launched an unsuccessful bid for Liverpool three years ago, is favoured to takeover Manchester City. He is in exile, living in London. Shinawatra has been the target of many investigations into tax evasion and financial irregularities, many of them politically motivated and ultimately inconclusive.
However, there is a marked difference between a robber baron and being the head of a government responsible for extra judicial executions and the use of torture to intimidate protesters. Shinawatra’s security forces have been responsible for brutally killing thousands in its ‘War against Drugs’ and in quelling an insurgency in southern Thailand. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Thailand’s Human Rights Commission have documented their concerns and asked for opening investigations.
If Shinawatra is made the owner of Manchester City, the Premiership will have crossed a line. This is not a quaint story of a Bernard Tapie, a folk hero to many despite his economic wrongdoings, who became an emblem of OM’s success and subsequent decline in the early 90’s. This is a story of a man allegedly responsible for the tragic deaths of thousands, in exile from his country, and now potentially in charge of a Premiership club.
But I guess long suffering Man City fans heartily sick of bumbling manager Stuart Pearce, are welcoming Shinawatra’s bounty, as long as he shows Pearce the door.