Buddhist monks arrested on charges of embezzling nearly $9M from Thai temple

BenarNews staff
Buddhist monks arrested on charges of embezzling nearly $9M from Thai temple Stacks of cash allegedly embezzled from the Wat Pa Dhammakiri in Nakhon Ratchasima province are on display at the Central Investigation Bureau in Bangkok, May 6, 2023.
Central Investigation Bureau handout

Seven Buddhist monks and two others have been detained on charges linked to the alleged embezzlement of about 300 million baht (U.S. $8.9 million) since 2020 from a temple in Nakhon Ratchasima province, east of Bangkok, police said.

The main suspect, a monk identified as Khom Abhivaro, who was in charge of finances at the temple, Wat Pa Dhammakiri, was arrested and disrobed on Friday over the alleged misappropriation of funds.

Police Lt. Gen. Jirapop Phuridej said investigators discovered that Khom, who was the temple’s deputy chief abbot, hid 70 million baht in his sister’s bank account and 51 million baht in a suitcase.

“He and his abbot pleaded guilty to the police investigators,” Jirapop said, adding that the abbot has been identified as Wuthima, who was also arrested on Friday with one other person.

“[I]f they were truly innocent, they would have naturally put the money in the temple’s bank

Khom’s sister, Juthathip Phulobdiwachoruphan, allegedly was involved in the scheme so the money could be transferred to her bank account.

On Tuesday, the Central Investigation Bureau arrested six other people – five monks and a driver – on suspicion they had roles in the embezzlement.

 “Significantly, we investigated … and found more gold bars valued at 19 million to 20 million baht (up to $590,000) in cash buried at the hill behind the temple,” Jirapop said.

The probe began at the request of the National Office of Buddhism. Thai media reported that the office had received tips that two monks had been embezzling donations from their temple.

The Central Criminal Court ordered arrest warrants for Khom, his sister and Wuthima on charges linked to misappropriation of funds. The three appeared in court on Monday where they were denied bail on concerns they could be flight risks or could tamper with evidence, according to officials.


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