Senior monk arrested for B110m embezzlement

Senior monk arrested for B110m embezzlement

Alleged to have conspired with fugitive former chief of Buddhism office

Police search the living quarters of Phra Sitthi Woranayok, abbot of Wat Khao Durian, at the temple in tambon Khao Phra of Muang district, Nakhon Nayok, on Friday morning. (Photo supplied)
Police search the living quarters of Phra Sitthi Woranayok, abbot of Wat Khao Durian, at the temple in tambon Khao Phra of Muang district, Nakhon Nayok, on Friday morning. (Photo supplied)

NAKHON NAYOK: A deputy chief monk of the province was arrested on Friday morning for alleged theft of 110 million baht over nine years from local temple funds in collusion with a missing former Buddhism office chief, police said.

Police searched the living quarters of Phra Sitthi Woranayok, abbot of Wat Khao Durian in tambon Khao Phra of Muang district, about 6am on Friday. The abbot is also deputy ecclesiastic chief of Nakhon Nayok.

He was charged with embezzling about 110 million baht of development funds intended for local temples from 2007 to 2016 in a conspiracy with Nopparat Benjawatananun, former chief of the National Office of Buddhism.

Police said the two men had disbursed 123 million baht from the government coffers during the nine-year period for the development of 12 local temples.

But after the temples received the money, they had the management of the temples withdraw most of the funds and the two men managed to keep 110 million baht for themselves, leaving only 13 million baht with the local temples.

They claimed that the money they kept would support development projects at other temples in need.

Police said Phra Sitthi Woranayok and Mr Nopparat instead shared the money they kept and spent it buying land and other assets. They each bought three blocks of land, covering about 10 rai, for 18.6 million baht from land owners close to them. The property acquisition was seen as money laundering, police said.

Authorities believe Mr Nopparat fled the country in 2016. A luxury house believed to belong to him was searched in 2017 and many assets and documents impounded for examination.

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