Police today denied bail today to five monks charged with helping a temple abbot embezzle over THB 180 million (US$5.4 million) in cash and gold.
The sanctimonious suspects; identified only as Boonsong, Boonluea, Thanakrit, Bandit, and Natthapach; are accused of stealing from Wat Pa Thammakhiri in Nakhon Ratchasima province. Their abbot, Khom Apirawaro, was disrobed Friday for allegedly stealing funds.
Police say that the abbot would order the five monks to transport large amounts of cash to be hidden at a resort, often in a van allegedly driven by Boonsong.
The police discovered and seized over THB76 million in cash, as well as gold bars and ornaments valued at more than THB22 million. Other assets, estimated to be worth no less than THB100 million, were still being assessed today.
The monks were taken in Tuesday and have denied the allegations. Investigators have opposed their bail requests, arguing the suspects are flight risks who caused significant financial damages.
On Monday, authorities came to search the temple, where they found large sums of gold bars and cash found buried in a hillside behind the temple
According to an anonymous neighbor, the monks or temple personnel made use of a suspicious structure behind the temple, possibly to hide something. This raised suspicions about their activities.
Khom Apirawaro, the 39-year-old former abbot who is now Khom Kongkaeo since he was disrobed has also been charged with conspiring to embezzle funds, dereliction of duty, and receiving stolen goods along with another former abbot identified as Wuthima and Khom’s sister, 35-year-old Jutatip Phubodeeworachuphan.
Khom was apprehended in Bangkok, Wuthima was arrested in Nakhon Ratchasima, and Jutatip was captured in Nonthaburi.