DSI bares illegal import of Somdet Chuang's Mercedes
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DSI bares illegal import of Somdet Chuang's Mercedes

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has shed light on the illegal process of importing and registering a vintage Mercedes-Benz owned by Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn.

Although the DSI has not linked the senior monk to the illegal process, an investigation regarding his signature found on a document concerning the car's registration is under way.

DSI director-general Paisit Wongmuang Thursday spelled out details involving the illegal car which belongs to Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, also known as Somdet Chuang, the 90-year-old abbot of Wat Pak Nam Phasi Charoen.

Somdet Chuang is now performing the supreme patriarch's duties and also chairs the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC). The SSC nominated him to become the new supreme patriarch on Jan 5.

Pol Col Paisit said the vehicle's body was imported on Sept 17, 2010 and the engine imported two days later — both from the United States. 

Other parts including the boot lid, bonnet, lamps, doors and bumpers had no import documents, but there was evidence that they were bought from a fake company called "Saichol Motor".

Investigations found the company's address did not exist in the household registration system and the Department of Business Development's database had no information on the company, said Pol Col Paisit.

The DSI suspects documents could have been forged to show that those other vehicle parts were bought domestically. This could be deemed as an attempt to evade import duty levied by the Customs Department, he said.

The owner of the vehicle also risks violating the law for receiving an imported item that evaded tax, Pol Col Paisit said, adding that the DSI will alert the Customs Department to pursue legal action against those involved in the alleged tax evasion.

The DSI chief said Phra Maha Sasanamunee, assistant abbot of Wat Pak Nam Phasi Charoen and secretary to Somdet Chuang, contracted two companies to "assemble" the car. Assembly was quoted at 4 million baht — Odd 89 Partnership Ltd, was paid 2.5 million baht and Wicharn Garage was paid 1.5 million baht.

Pol Col Paisit said neither of the two had industrial operation licences to assemble a vehicle and had no engineers to inspect the process.

The DSI found that a document had been forged to pay the excise taxes on the car to the Excise Department. The signature of Kanchana Makmuean, owner of NP Garage, was falsified on the document used in the process. NP Garage was a car-painting garage incapable of assembling a classic car, the DSI chief said. A man named Chalat Nitithitiwong was alleged to have forged the document.

Mr Chalat then hired a man named Somnuek Boonprapai to register the car with the Land Transport Department using the forged document showing payment of the excise tax, Pol Col Paisit said.

The registration application also contained false information stating that Ms Kanchana sold the car to the senior monk and a fake receipt was created to support the false sales claim, the DSI chief said.

Mr Somnuek allegedly told the DSI that a fake receipt was made to show that the car was assembled at a cost of one million baht instead of the quoted price of 4 million baht, Pol Col Paisit said.

The signature of Somdet Chuang appeared in a document presented for the car's registration in July 2011. The DSI would summon the senior monk and all involved to ask them whether the signature was genuine, the DSI chief said.

He also said the DSI will need a few more months to decide whether or how the supreme patriarch nominee would be held responsible.

"It is a classic Mercedes-Benz of the 300B series manufactured in Germany in 1953. It is about 60 years old and only 100 units of the model were produced. So it is categorised as a beautiful and classic collectible. Its price ranges between 10-20 million baht," Pol Col Paisit said.

Suppatpoj Nitisathorn, a legal adviser to Wat Pak Nam, said the temple's legal team had previously told the DSI that the person who donated the car to Somdet Chuang knew nothing about the process of importing and registering the car.

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