Police investigate 2 more temples over fund fraud

Police investigate 2 more temples over fund fraud

Police investigators have linked two more Buddhist temples to a temple fund embezzlement scam, bringing the number involved in the fraud up to 12.

Pol Col Warayut Sukkhawat, deputy chief of the Counter-Corruption Division (CCD), said police are investigating two more temples -- Wat Mukkadharam and Wat Tha Phaya -- located in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

They have not identified any new suspects, but found that suspects from previous embezzlement cases may be involved.

"Suspects found connected to the two new temples in the scandal were the same group of state officials who have already been charged over their alleged roles in parts of the scandal probed previously," Pol Col Warayut said.

Pol Col Warayut said police would wrap up investigations into the previous 10 temple fund embezzlement cases this month. Some have already been submitted to public prosecutors.

He did not say when the investigation into the two new temples would be complete, but police were currently probing the suspects in the first 10 cases in connection with them.

"We need to collect evidence to back accusations before forwarding these cases to the National Anti-Corruption Commission," he said.

The notorious temple fund embezzlement erupted in May when six senior monks were arrested and defrocked in connection with it.

Investigators then found 10 temples involved in embezzling money the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) gave them to conduct activities that promote Buddhism.

Monks at three famous temples in Bangkok were accused of money laundering after senior monks siphoned money to other accounts or used the funds for unnecessary purposes such as carrying out PR campaigns at inflated prices.

The embezzlement also involved cooperation between temples and officials at the NOB. These officials would contact temples to create projects and request funding.

They would then receive a portion of the funds which the temples transferred back to their personal accounts.

Many high-ranking and well-known senior monks have been charged in the fraud including Phra Phrom Dilok, the former abbot of Wat Sam Phraya; his ex-secretary, Phra Atthakit Sophon; Phra Sri Khunaporn; Phra Wichit Thammaporn; Phra Khru Siriwihankan and Phra Methee Sutthikorn.

All of the charged monks are currently detained in Bangkok Remand Prison, while the ex-Sangha Supreme Council member formerly known as Phra Phrom Methee is seeking asylum in Germany.

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