BANGKOK (AFP): Thailand’s anti-graft watchdog ruled today that leading prime ministerial candidate Thaksin Shinawatra was guilty of filing a false declaration of his assets, an offence that could result in him being banned from politics for five years. The nine-member board of the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) voted 8-1 that Thaksin “intentionally filed a false statement of assets”, said NCCC president Ophars Arunin. He added that the case will now be referred to the Constitutional Court, which must ratify the NCCC’s decision before the ban can take effect. The inquiry into Thaksin covered shareholdings in 17 companies that he failed to disclose in declarations made during a brief stint as deputy prime minister in August 1997. It also investigated the dubious transfer of shares in several other companies to a group of his relatives and servants. Thaksin has admitted to the irregularities but argued that they were caused by confusion regarding the rules governing asset declarations, which changed under the 1997 Constitution. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai and Interior Minister Banyat Banthadtan, both from the Democrat party, which leads Thailand’s six-party ruling coalition, were cleared of similar charges after NCCC investigations. Ophars said the pair had failed to disclose their assets fully but that neither had benefited from the errors in his declaration.