Bangkok (Agencies): A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in absentia to five years in prison for alleged negligence in a money-losing rice subsidy programme .

Yingluck, whose elected government was overthrown in 2014 by the army generals who still control the kingdom, had denied allegations relating to a mishandled and costly rice subsidy scheme.

The verdict was due to be delivered on 25 August but Yingluck shocked the nation, and thousands of supporters who had gathered at the court, by failing to show up.

Her lawyer cited an ear problem as the reason for her no-show. However, the court rejected the excuse and delayed the verdict, later issuing an arrest warrant. The junta chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha, ordered border checks to be increased.

Yingluck’s exact whereabouts are unknown, although senior sources in her opposition Puea Thai party said she fled to Cambodia and flew via Singapore to Dubai. She has made no public comments since she left Thailand.

Stories of her escape, possibly assisted by several police officers, have entranced the country. Some believe she may be in London, where her family owns a residence.

Authorities are conducting DNA sampling from a Toyota Camry with fake number plates that she allegedly escaped in, with results due in a month’s time. Investigators believe that at least two cars, both a similar colour, were used in the getaway. One car was as a decoy, they say.

Three senior police officers have been detained for questioning, including a police colonel who worked in eastern Thailand.

On the eve of the verdict on Wednesday, Prayuth said he knew where Yingluck had fled to, but would not reveal the location until after the judgment was delivered.