OAG pushes for dissolution of scandal-hit temple

OAG pushes for dissolution of scandal-hit temple

Wat Phra Dhammakaya, with its thousands of monks and hundreds of thousands of members who revere fugitive founder Phra Dhammachayo (inset), is Thailand's biggest temple in acreage and membership. The OAG says it is not too big to prosecute. (File photo)
Wat Phra Dhammakaya, with its thousands of monks and hundreds of thousands of members who revere fugitive founder Phra Dhammachayo (inset), is Thailand's biggest temple in acreage and membership. The OAG says it is not too big to prosecute. (File photo)

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) has suggested a court petition to order the dissolution of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, linked to the Khun Yay Maha Ratana Upasika Chandra Khonnokyoong Foundation, after it was accused of involvement in the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) embezzlement scandal, according to a public prosecutor.

Kajornsak Buddhanuparb, deputy chief of the OAG's Department of Investigation, said a probe found the foundation was implicated in money-laundering in relation to the case.

KCUC's embezzled money was found to have been wired to the foundation, he said. He said his organisation suggested the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), which is probing the case, petition the OAG and file a civil lawsuit that would terminate the foundation.

This would ensure that the foundation's assets are returned to the state in line with the Civil and Commercial Code's Section 137, Mr Kajornsak said. Former KCUC chairman, Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, was jailed in 2016 for siphoning off 22.1 million baht from the KCUC and allegedly embezzling billions more.

Not only were 27 cheques withdrawn from the KCUC, but also cash and many assets were believed to have been siphoned out of the cooperative, according to Mr Kajornsak. He said Wat Phra Dhammakaya is also linked with other foundations that appeared to have committed similar offences. Most of the Dhammakaya Temple's branches' assets do not belong to the temple, but belong to the foundation, Mr Kajornsak said.

Pol Lt Col Pakorn Sucheevakul, chief of the DSI's Financial and Banking Lawsuit Bureau, said investigators now have sufficient evidence to file money-laundering charges against Wanna Jirakitti, who serves as the president of the foundation, as well as Areepan Treeanusorn, a foundation secretary.

He said the KCUC's money was donated to Phra Dhammajayo, former abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, who then sent it to other parties, including 700-800 million baht to the foundation to construct a globe-shaped building and 700 million baht to the temple to build a vihara. The KCUC's 325 million baht was also discovered to have been given to the foundation directly, he said.

The DSI has managed to confiscate 1.5 billion baht in cash and 3.8 billion baht worth of 299 assets. The confiscated money will be returned to 50,000 members of the KCUC, Pol Col Paisit said.


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