B100m assets seized from alleged embezzler of temple funds

BANGKOK: Crime Suppression Division (CSD) police have seized assets worth about B100 million from a man alleged to have embezzled about B190mn of funds intended for the renovation of Wat Bowonniwet Vihara and its branch temples, a police source said.

A worshipper attends a royally-sponsored bathing rite in front of a picture of the late Somdet Phra Wannarat, on Mar 17, 2022 at Wat Bowonniwet Vihara. The revered monk died of gall bladder cancer on Mar 15. Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya

The embezzlement occurred while the temple’s revered abbot, the late Somdet Phra Wannarat, was receiving treatment for gall bladder cancer at Chulalongkorn Hospital, reports the Bangkok Post. He died on Mar 15.

Following the abbot’s death, the temple’s board asked the Royal Thai Police Office to launch a covert investigation. Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, the police chief, assigned the CSD to investigate.

A team of investigators, led by CSD commander Pol Maj Gen Montree Theskhan, examined the finances of Somdet Phra Wannarat and discovered evidence of embezzlement of funds for the renovation of Wat Bowonniwet Vihara, which is in Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok, and its branch temples.

The alleged embezzler, whose name was withheld, was a close acquaintance of Somdet Phra Wannarat.

On Mar 23, the CSD team, armed with a court warrant, arrested the man at a condominium in Bangkok.

The police investigation uncovered a wealth of goods including Bently, Porsche, Volvo, BMW and Lexus cars, cash, bank accounts, brand name bags and gold-plated amulets, worth about B100mn in total. They were impounded for examination.

The investigators are coordinating with the Anti-Money Laundering Office on further legal proceedings.

The investigation into the alleged embezzlement is continuing. The amount of money involved might exceed B190mn, the source said.

The suspect is being detained at Bangkok Remand Prison.

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