THAILAND – On July 27, 1989, Chamoy Thipyaso and seven others, were found guilty of corporate fraud. Thipyaso, their leader, was sentenced to 141, 078 years in prison.
Thipyaso, wife of a high ranking member of the Royal Thai Air Force and an employee of Petroleum Authority of Thailand, started a chit fund called Mae Chamoy Fund in the late 1960s. Chit funds is a type of savings scheme commonly practised in India, where it has been crucial for the financial development of the Kerala state. The chit fund organised by Thipyaso was crafted to seem like an oil share with high returns.
Due to her connections with the Royal Thai Air Force and Petroleum Authority of Thailand, the scheme was able to sustain for close to 20 years, only shutting down in mid 1980s. Thipyaso’s links to the military made her scheme appear more authentic and increased her business and military power, which enabled her to attract 16, 231 clients.
Among her clients there were prominent members from the military and the Royal Household, which prompted calls for the Thai government to bail out the banks and chit funds. Discussions of an unknown nature were made with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, following which the chit fund was wound up and Thipyaso arrested. She was retained secretly by the Air Force for a few days.
Thipyaso’s trial only commenced after the losses of the victims from the military and royal staff were recovered. Although Thipyaso was sentenced to 141, 078 years in prison, Thai legislation only allowed her to serve a maximum of 20 years for fraud. However, Thipyaso only served approximately 8 years of jail before she was released.
Currently, Thipyaso’s sentence remains the world’s longest prison sentence, with a trio convicted of the 2004 Madrid train bombings coming in second ranging from 34, 715 years to 42, 924 years per person. Similar to Thipyaso’s case, the Spanish law dictates that the maximum prison sentence they can serve is up to 40 years per person.