DSI probes former abbot escape report

DSI probes former abbot escape report

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is verifying an unconfirmed report that fugitive monk Phra Dhammajayo was helped by a group of his disciples to sneak out of Thailand to a European country.

Citing sources, Pol Col Paisit Wongmuang, chief of the DSI, said the information has yet to be confirmed and the DSI now plans to ask countries in Europe whether it is true.

Phra Dhammajayo, the former abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, is wanted on charges of money-laundering and receiving stolen assets in connection with the multi-billion-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) scandal.

The Immigration Bureau does not have any record of Phra Dhammajayo leaving the country though he might have left through a natural border route rather than a formal immigration checkpoint, Pol Col Paisit said.

The DSI has probed the money trail concerning alleged attempts to siphon money from the KCUC to several suspects via 878 cheques paid between 2009 and 2013 and some suspect asset purchases, he said.

He did not provide further details regarding the findings of the money trail investigation.

The DSI probes into 15 embezzlement and money-laundering cases associated with the KCUC scandal are still under way, while Wat Phra Dhammakaya is now under the care of a four-party committee, he said.

The committee comprises the National Office of Buddhism, the DSI, the temple people and the chief Buddhist monk of Pathum Thani province, he said.

In March, the National Council for Peace and Order designated the temple and the surrounding area as "controlled zones" to allow for a manhunt for Phra Dhammajayo.

For three weeks, the military and police were involved in a standoff with the temple's disciples and monks. Authorities searched the controlled areas but could not find the elusive former abbot.

Phra Dhammajayo also has arrest warrants out for him for alleged forest encroachment.

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