DSI hatches new plan to collar Phra Dhammajayo
Prosecutors indict monk after 5 delays
Plans to arrest Phra Dhammajayo have been put in place following a decision by prosecutors to indict the abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, according to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).
Phra Dhammajayo faces charges of laundering money and receiving stolen property in connection with the multi-billion-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) embezzlement scandal.
The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) announced Wednesday that the embattled abbot's indictment, along with those of four other suspects linked to the case, after five previous postponements.
Justice Minister Gen Paiboon Koomchaya had raised questions about the delay in the indictment and also suggested the DSI should not bother raiding the temple to arrest the abbot as it might be a waste of time if the OAG failed to indict the abbot.
But Kachornsak Phutthanuphap, the OAG's executive director of investigation, said the DSI has a duty to arrest the abbot following an arrest warrant previously approved by the court and did not need to wait for the OAG's indictment.
However, once an indictment comes through, the DSI is required to detain and hand over the suspect to public prosecutors before the statute of limitations expires.
DSI director-general Paisit Wongmuang said DSI officers will arrest Phra Dhammajayo as soon as the agency receives the indictment documents from the OAG.
There is a clear plan for the mission which involves forces from various agencies, he said, refusing to reveal when the operation would be executed.
He said it is necessary to arrest the monk and hand him over to prosecutors who will formally charge him before the 15-year statute of limitations expires.
The DSI chief said he is confident the abbot is still in the temple. No cooperation will be sought from the clergy over his arrest, he said.
OAG spokesman Somnuek Siangkong said the agency's working panel decided to indict Phra Dhammajayo, along with four others, on Tuesday after reviewing evidence provided by investigators as well as the abbot's petition to seek justice in the case.
The four others are Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, former KCUC chairman; Saranya Manmad and Thongpin Kanlom, both ex-executives of the KCUC; and Sasithon Chokprasit.
Supachai, who admitted to siphoning money from KCUC accounts in 2013, is serving time in prison after being found guilty in another case relating to the KCUC embezzlement case.
Ms Saranya and Ms Thongpin, who have both been freed on bail, are required to come to court next Wednesday to be arraigned, Lt Somnuek said.
The DSI will be instructed to arrest Ms Sasithon, who is still at large, and Phra Dhammajayo and hand them over to prosecutors for further proceedings, the OAG spokesman said.
Chatipong Jeeraphan, deputy chief of the OAG's special cases office, admitted the OAG had been slow in deliberating the embezzlement case since it involved many victims and a huge amount of losses.
"Prosecutors have focused on being clear about the money trail. The investigation report had to be considered meticulously to ensure the court would return the embezzled money to the victims," said Mr Chatipong.
Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said he is not 100% certain that Phra Dhammajayo is in the temple.
Pol Gen Srivara said investigators issued a summons for him over a forest encroachment charge, but there had been no response.
He said national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda also asked him to wait to be contacted by the DSI for cooperation in dealing with the monk.
Last Thursday, the Sikhiu Provincial Court approved a warrant for the arrest of Phra Dhammajayo for alleged forest encroachment by the temple's World Peace Valley Meditation Centre at Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima's Pak Chong district.
The monk also faces an arrest warrant issued by the Loei Provincial Court on Aug 15 after a police probe found Wat Dhammakaya's meditation facility in Loei's Phu Rua encroached on a forest reserve.