Assets seized at luxury house of former Buddhism chief

Assets seized at luxury house of former Buddhism chief

Officials of the Anti-Money Laundering Office examine assets found in the 49-million-baht house believed to actually belong to a former director of the National Office of Buddhism, in Taling Chan district of Bangkok on Wednesday. (Supplied photo)
Officials of the Anti-Money Laundering Office examine assets found in the 49-million-baht house believed to actually belong to a former director of the National Office of Buddhism, in Taling Chan district of Bangkok on Wednesday. (Supplied photo)

Authorities searched a 49-million-baht house in Taling Chan district, Bangkok, on Wednesday morning as part of an investigation into the alleged embezzlement of temple funds by a former director of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB).

Officials of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) and police from the Counter Corruption Division entered house number 108/1 in the Grand Bangkok Boulevard housing estate on Ratchaphruek Road on a search warrant.

Media reported the house was bought with cash in 2013 and registered as belonging to a young daughter from a previous marriage of the wife of Nopparat Benjawatananun, the former director of the NOB.

Amlo on Tuesday resolved to freeze 33 assets, worth 71 million baht, held by Mr Nopparat and other people suspected of embezzling NOB temple development funds between 2012 and 2016.

Acting Amlo secretary-general Romsit Weeriyasan said on Wednesday that authorities believed the house linked to Mr Nopparat because they found documents about his royal decorations, medical treatment, credit cards and other identity cards there. Officials also found documents of his wife Pattanant in the house.

A big safe and two small safes were seized for further examination.

Officials said only two maids were at the premises searched. Media reported that vehicles had arrived there two days ago to move belongings from the house.

Pol Maj Gen Romsit also said that Mr Nopparat and people close to him had fled the country a year ago.

Ownership of other assets worth at least 100 million baht was also being investigated in connection with the case.

A source said the safes seized from the Taling Chang house were later opened. Inside were many documents allegedly detailing temple funds-embezzlement, along with many expensive Buddha amulets.

Other documents showed the house actually belonged to Mr Nopparat.

The case against Mr Nopparat and eight others involves the alleged embezzlement of 62 million baht from funds for temple development and Buddhism promotion at 12 temples from 2012 to 2016.

The suspects were summoned to report to police on Oct 8-12. If they fail to show up, a second summons would be issued for each of them to report by Oct 25. This would be  followed by arrest warrants, Pol Maj Gen Romsit said.

The eight other suspects include Wasawat Kittiteerasit, the NOB chief for temple development and religious support, NOB deputy director-general Pranom Kongpikul, Natthawadee Tantayawisas, an NOB academic, and Phra Sutthipong Sutthiwangso, abbot of Wat Thai Denmark Brahmavihara. 


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