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Deposed Thai PM's wife guilty of tax evasion

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  • NEW: Pojaman released on 5 million baht ($149,000) bail
  • NEW: Pojaman widely expected to appeal
  • NEW: Guilty verdict strikes major blow to Thaksin
  • NEW: Thaksin, wife, her brother and secretary deny wrongdoing
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(CNN) -- The wife of deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was found guilty Thursday of evading millions of dollars in taxes and sentenced to three years in prison, state media reported.

After the ruling, the judge released Pojaman Shinawatra on five million baht ($149,000) bail, pending an appeal.

The 51-year-old former first lady and her husband did not speak to reporters as she left the Criminal Court in Bangkok, the Thai News Agency said. They were accompanied by their three children.

More than 300 police officers were deployed around the courthouse to prevent any outbreak from Thaksin supporters.

The ruling is likely to be a major blow for Thaksin, the former prime minister, who has consistently denied that he or his family was involved in any wrongdoing.

Several other corruption claims against Thaksin and his family are winding their way through the legal system.

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Pojaman, her step-brother and her secretary were convicted on charges alleging that they intentionally avoided paying taxes worth 546 million baht ($16.4 million) in a 1997 transfer of shares in the family's telecommunications business.

The step-brother was sentenced to three years in prison. The secretary was sentenced to two.

All three denied the charges.

Thaksin, who served two terms as prime minister, was deposed in a bloodless military coup.

The billionaire leader is accused of abusing the country's system of checks and balances and bending government policy to benefit his family business.

He and his wife are part of another corruption trial in which Pojaman is accused of using her husband's political influence to purchase undeveloped land from a government agency for about a third of its estimated value.

Thaksin also faces separate charges of concealing assets.

Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon, owns the Manchester City Football Club of the English Premier League. His party won two landslide victories before he was deposed in a coup in September 2006.

He lived abroad until his allies won nearly half the seats in the lower house in December's parliamentary elections.

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