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Jonathan Head, the BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent, is facing five years in a Thai jail after a lawyer brought a criminal defamation case against him over his investigation into two foreign retirees who were scammed out of their properties in Phuket.
On Tuesday Head appeared in court aside British National Ian Rance who is a joint defendant. Rance retired in Phuket in 2001 where he married a local Thai woman, they have three children. Rance invested $1.2 million in properties in Thailand but as Thai law dictates foreigners cannot own land the properties were placed in a company in which he was a director. In 2010 Rance discovered his wife had forged his signature removing him as a director in order to sell the properties. She was jailed for four years over the scam. Rance has fought in the courts to get his property back.
When covering the case the BBC’s Jonathan Head reported that Pratuan, the lawyer, admitted to notarising Rance’s signature without him being present. Pratuan has now filed a defamation case alleging the reports caused him to be defamed, insulted and hated.
Rance and Head face one charge of criminal defamation, that carries up to two years in jail. Head faces an additional charge under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act that has a maximum 5 year jail penalty. Both defendants have had to surrender their passports.