Thailand: Monk who Bought Private Jet Sentenced to 114 Years

Wilawan Watcharasakwet
180809-TH-fraud-monk-1000.JPG Wirapol Sukphol, the former Buddhist monk who provoked outrage with his lavish lifestyle, arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok, Aug. 9, 2018.
DailyNews via Reuters

A former jet-setting Buddhist monk whose lavish lifestyle infuriated Thais received a 114-year prison sentence Thursday for fraud, money laundering and computer crimes, a court official said.

Wirapol Sukphol provoked outrage in 2013 when a YouTube video showed him wearing designer sunglasses in a private jet with a Louis Vuitton carry-on luggage by his side.

As a result of the controversy, the 39-year-old, who is also known as Luang Pu Nen Kham, was defrocked. He was also accused of raping an underage girl and allegedly had sexual relations with several women, and had impregnated one.

Wirapol fled to the United States and was arrested in 2016 in California where a court ordered his extradition. He had denied the charges and claimed he was ready to fight them in court.

The Ratchada Criminal Court in Bangkok handed his prison term Thursday, a court official, who requested anonymity, told reporters.

“Judges convicted him and sentenced him altogether to 114 years,” a court official told reporters, adding that under Thai law Wirapol will serve 20 years because of legal technicalities stipulating the maximum penalty for multiple counts of the same offense.

Investigators said that between February 2009 and June 2013 Wirapol told his followers that the deity Indra told him in a dream to build the world’s largest Buddha image made from emeralds, and a golden image of himself. He also invited followers to donate to his projects and his plan to buy a boat to aid victims of flood disasters.

At least 29 followers filed a complaint that they had donated 28.65 million baht (U.S. $862,000) that he misused. The court ordered Wirapol to return that amount to his victims.

The Thai court had determined that he spent the donations to maintain his lavish lifestyle, including buying a private jet, a Porsche and a BMW.

A verdict on molestation and child abduction charges is expected in October.

Wirapol is among high-profile monks in Thai who have been arrested or defrocked in connection with money scandals and improper sexual relationships. Thai authorities have raided well-known temples and arrested monks tied to corruption scandals.

On Tuesday, the national anti-corruption commission announced it has undertaken 81 cases related to funding frauds at temples.

At least five senior monks were expelled and detained in jail along with several government officers involved in the scandals.


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