Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘nominee’

14th February 2010

The Treaty of Amity between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand (US-Thai Treaty of Amity) allows American Citizens to own virtually one hundred percent of a Thai company. This can prove highly beneficial to American expatriates in Thailand who wish to conduct business. That being said, there are restrictions to the types of activity that an Amity Treaty Company can undertake. Most notable amongst the restricted activities are: land ownership, internal communications, internal transportation, fiduciary functions, and the liberal professions.

Under Thai law, there is a de facto prohibition placed upon foreigners when it comes to land ownership. This means that foreign nationals are not permitted to take freehold title to Thai property without first obtaining permission from the Thai Minister of the Interior. This prohibition is not all-encompassing as foreign nationals are permitted to take freehold title to Thai condominiums. However, the condominium complex must comport to the relevant provisions of the Thai Condominium Act. Most notable among the requirements in the Thai Condominium Act is the provision that a Thai condo complex must be primarily owned by Thai nationals, meaning that 51% of the Condo units must be owned by Thais while 49% percent of the units may be owned by foreigners.

In many cases, a condominium complex is owned by a company in Thailand. Some opt to own a condo in this way in order to make selling the condominium easier, while others initially purchase the condo indirectly through a corporate entity. In either case, the practice is technically legal. Although, use of so-called “nominee shareholders,” is illegal in Thailand and Thai authorities are increasingly on the lookout for corporate structures utilizing nominees. That being said, the definition of “nominee” is somewhat vague.

This leads us back to the issue of Amity Treaty Companies. Amity Companies are specifically precluded from ownership of Thai real estate pursuant to the provisions of the Treaty of Amity, while the Thai Condominium Act allows foreigners to own a Condominium outright. This begs the question: can an Amity Treaty Company own a Thai Condo in the same manner as a foreign natural person could? This author has not adequately settled this question in his own mind and welcomes any comments regarding this issue. The provisions of the Treaty of Amity preclude land ownership and although many believe that Condo ownership is simply ownership of a unit, the Chanote does pass title to an interest in the underlying land, so there would seem to be a compelling argument that a condo owner is something of a landowner and, if so, this practice would likely be precluded under the provisions of the Amity Treaty.

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