Temple fraud haul B100m

Temple fraud haul B100m

Suwat: Got results after CSD took reins
Suwat: Got results after CSD took reins

Crime Suppression Division (CSD) police have seized assets worth about 100 million baht from a man alleged to have embezzled about 190 million baht of funds intended for the renovation of Wat Bowon Niwet Vihara in Bangkok and its branch temples.

The suspect, Apirat, is in his mid-30s but his surname was withheld by the police. He was initially given the pseudonym Noei by police.

He was arrested at a condo in Bangkok on March 23. His warrant was issued after the national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk assigned the CSD to the investigation.

A source said law enforcement agencies were first alerted after monks at Wat Wachira Thamma Ram in in Ayutthaya, one of Wat Bowon Niwet's branches, found irregularities in the temple's assets which were later linked to the activities of Mr Apirat, who was a close acquaintance of Somdet Phra Wannarat, the late abbot of Wat Bowon Niwet.

They lodged a complaint with the CSD on March 22.

The acting abbot of Wat Bowon Niwet later found that huge amounts of money were transferred from the temple and personal bank accounts of the late abbot to Mr Apirat.

The source said the embezzlement occurred while the late abbot was receiving treatment for gall bladder cancer at Chulalongkorn Hospital from December last year to March. He passed away on March 15.

A team of investigators, led by CSD commander Pol Maj Gen Montree Theskhan, examined the finances of the late abbot and found that in October last year, Mr Apirat took bank account books belonging to the abbot and the temple as well as his ID card to a bank and changed the mobile phone number registered to verify transactions as his own.

Then, between November and January, Mr Apirat asked the abbot to sign several blank withdrawal slips which Mr Apirat later completed himself.

Not long after, police moved in and seized assets including a luxury Bentley, Porsche and Lexus cars, bank books, brand-name bags and gold-plated amulets, worth about 100 million baht for examination, as part of their probe.

The unit is also coordinating with the Anti-Money Laundering Office on further legal proceedings, with one source estimating that Mr Apirat might have stolen as much as 190 million baht from the temple.

Mr Apirat faces initial charges of fraud, theft, forgery and money laundering.

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