A former monk, Phra Ajarn Khom Abhivaro, has been arrested along with two others on charges of embezzling 180 million baht from Wat Pha Dhammakiri, where the monk was based, in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Mr Khom, 39, who achieved fame as a meditation expert and had many high-profile followers, was arrested on a warrant issued by the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, said Pol Maj Gen Montri Thetkhan, the Crime Suppression Division commander, who is under the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB).
Arrested with him were Wutthima, a former Phra Mor, 38, and Juthathip, 35 (surnames withheld). A police source said the arrests took place last week.
The same source said that Mr Khom was also found to have engaged in sexual activity. As a result, he voluntarily left the monkhood on May 1.
The CIB began its investigation after the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) said it suspected the monk of collecting some temple donations for his own use, police said on Saturday.
One donation was reportedly made through Mr Wutthima, a former abbot, who then passed the cash on to Miss Juthathip, Mr Khom’s sister.
Miss Juthathip put the sum into Mr Khom’s bank account, while other cash donations amounting to 51 million baht were stored in foam boxes and suitcases at her house. The money has been seized by the police.
The investigation also found another transaction of 130 million baht that Mr Khom had managed to carve out from a temple donation. In total, he had embezzled at least 180 million baht from the temple, the police source said.
The suspects face charges of embezzlement and abuse of office. Miss Juthathip was also charged with receiving stolen goods, added Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop.
Mr Khom graduated from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Wang Noi Campus, in Ayutthaya, before moving to Nakhon Ratchasima and establishing the Dhammakiri monastic residence, which was later upgraded to a temple.
He was known as a meditation expert, and many famous people came to be his followers and understudies.
Central Investigation Bureau police display money seized from a former monk and two other suspects during a briefing on Saturday. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)