Criminal Law: Crime of Misappropriation
Under Thai law, if an unmarried couple breaks up, is it possible for the boyfriend to demand return of money that was given to the girlfriend during the relationship? And if so, how much of it can he get back? Under normal circumstances, the answer to that question would simply be negative. However, it would be possible for the boyfriend to demand the money back if he can successfully prove that his girlfriend actually misappropriated the money, which would be a criminal offense under Section 352 of the Criminal Code. The aforementioned section states that:
Whoever, being in possession of a property belonging to the other person, or of which the other person is a co-owner, dishonestly converts such property to himself or a third person, is said to commit misappropriation, and shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding three years or fined not exceeding six thousand Baht, or both.
In Thai Supreme Court Decision No. 22267/2555, the Court determined that the girlfriend should be liable for returning money given to her by her ex-boyfriend on the grounds of misappropriation of property.
The facts were that the man and woman had been cohabiting together as husband-and-wife without ever having registered a legal marriage. The man intended to deposit 450,000 baht into a joint bank account held by both himself and the woman in order to pay for their common expenses. However, the woman, who was Thai, informed the man (a foreign national) that foreigners were not allowed to open bank accounts in Thailand and therefore, she would have to keep the money in a bank account under her name alone. At a later point in time, the man discovered that foreigners, in fact, could open bank accounts in Thailand and accordingly asked the woman to return the money to him. The woman then ran away and ceased all contact with the man.
In her defense, the woman had testified that the man had given her the money to do with as she pleased. However, the Court found the testimony weightless.
The Court determined that all the evidence pointed to the fact that the woman intended to deceive the man since she deliberately told him that foreigners could not open bank accounts and because she ran away and ceased all contact after the man discovered the truth. Furthermore, the evidence revealed that only 3 to 4 months later, the woman registered a marriage with a different man, which can only mean that she entered into a relationship with the man for dishonest reasons.
The Court only granted the man half of the amount in dispute since the evidence indicated that he intended that the money be used by himself and the woman for household expenses. Therefore, the Court deemed it be analogous to marital property.
It should also be noted that the man purchased the land upon which him and the woman cohabited and that ownership was registered in the name of the woman. The Court acknowledged this fact, but the legal complaint did not appear to challenge the woman’s ownership or right to continued ownership of the property.
Thai law can be very complex. It is advised that foreigners in Thailand seek guidance from competent Thai lawyers.
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