Billions of dollars worth of assets held by the Thai Crown have been transferred directly to Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, a move that will vastly increase his personal wealth and tax liability.
The change was due to happen after the Crown Property Act was repealed last year, but it was only formally revealed over the weekend.
The Crown Property Bureau (CPB), the office in charge of the Crown’s holdings before the repeal of the Crown Property Act, posted on its website Sunday that millions of shares of two companies – The Siam Cement Public Company and The Siam Commercial Bank Public Company – had been formally transferred from the CPB to the King. The shares are worth more than $7 billion, according to the stocks’ prices when markets closed on Friday.
The Crown Property Act, passed in 1936, reorganized the Thai royal family’s assets into separate categorizes for royal assets. Repealing the act meant that the Crown’s and the King’s personal holdings would be placed into a single category to be administered by King Vajiralongkorn.
The move means the assets will also be subject to “the same duties and taxation as would assets belonging to any other citizens,” the palace said in a note accompanying the news release. It also said the funds and assets would be managed in a manner that is “transparent and open to scrutiny.”
Besides the millions of shares of the two companies, it’s unclear exactly how much money is at stake, but the Thai royal family is believed to be one of the wealthiest royal families in the world, if not the most.
Forbes estimated the Crown’s holdings to be worth more than $30 billion in 2012. To put that in perspective, Queen Elizabeth II is believed to be worth nearly $500 million, according to the Sunday Times’ rich list.
The Thai embassy in Washington disputed Forbes’ estimate in letter to the editor, claiming the magazine’s calculations lacked clear methodology and explanation. It also said the CPB’s assets are “held in trust for the nation” and were not part of the then-King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s personal fortune.
Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun assumed the throne in December 2016, becoming King Rama X. He is the tenth member of the Chakri dynasty, which has ruled Thailand since Rama I took the throne in 1782.