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Former head of scandal-tainted Thai bank gets 20 more years behind bars

The former head of a scandal-tainted Thai bank whose failure presaged Thailand's 1997 economic crisis was sentenced to an additional 20 years in prison on Thursday.

Krirk-Kiart Jalichandra headed the now-defunct Bangkok Bank of Commerce, which collapsed in 1996 under a burden of billions of baht (millions of dollars) of bad debt, forcing the government to take it over.

Authorities found that much of the debt resulted from phony loans made by the bank to cronies of Krirk-Kiart and other bank executives.

Krirk-Kiart had previously been sentenced to a combined 70 years in prison from numerous cases related to embezzlement. He was free on bail pending appeals in those cases.

The Bangkok Criminal Court ruled Thursday that Krirk-Kiart and two vice presidents of the bank were guilty of embezzlement and malfeasance that caused the company to lose billions of baht.

Each of the three was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 1.1 billion baht (US$33 million; Ђ24 million) each. The court also ordered them to pay 598 million baht (US$18 million; EUR13 million) to compensate the bank's losses.

Krirk-Kiart said he planned to appeal the latest ruling.

The crisis saw Thailand's currency go through a de facto devaluation and several banks fail, and eventually triggered a recession.

The case also implicated fugitive financier Rakesh Saxena, the bank's treasurer adviser, who has been charged in Thailand with looting millions of dollars (euros) from the Bangkok Bank of Commerce.

Thai authorities have sought the extradition of the Indian-born Saxena, who is living under house arrest in Canada, for over a decade.

Thai authorities charged him in May 1996 with setting up a series of phony loans to siphon millions from the bank. He maintained that he was being made the "fall guy" by executives of the bank who are related to the Thai royal family, and by financial regulators embarrassed by the scandal.

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