Ex-treasurer of Wat Bowornniwet caught over embezzlement charges

SUNDAY, APRIL 03, 2022

A former treasurer of Wat Bowornniwet was arrested by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) for allegedly siphoning 190 million baht from this temple and another satellite temple over the past four months.

A CSD source said the former treasurer, who was a close aide of late abbot Somdej Phra Wannarat, has been charged for allegedly embezzling 80 million baht from Wat Wachirathammaram and 110 million baht from Wat Bowornniwet.

The late abbot apparently oversaw the finances of both temples.

Wat Bowornniwet is one of the major Buddhist temples in Bangkok and served as the residence of the late Supreme Patriarch. It is also the final resting place of King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great and King Vajiravudh.

After the abbot passed away on March 15, the abbot who took over the finances of Wat Wachirathammaram noticed irregularities in the temple’s bank accounts and called on CSD to investigate.

CSD concluded its investigation on March 22 and obtained an arrest warrant for the former treasurer, identified only as Mr Nor, on the following day. Mr Nor was arrested on March 25.

After the arrest, Wat Bowornniwet suspected that its assets might also be siphoned so it asked the police to check the assets of the late abbot before Wat Bowornniwet filed a formal complaint on April 1, the CSD source added.

Investigators said they learned that the alleged siphoning of funds from the temples’ bank accounts began in late November last year.

They learned that Mr Nor had allegedly duped the late abbot into signing a blank withdrawal form, which was later used to withdraw funds from the temple’s account in Kasikornbank.

CSD also found that Mr Nor had deceived the late abbot into signing another withdrawal form, but had another aide withdraw the money. The second aide then allegedly bought a cashier’s cheque with that amount, which Mr Nor later deposited in his own account.

Initial investigation showed that the late abbot had opened several personal accounts as well as accounts for Wat Wachirathammaram at a Kasikornbank branch. CSD did not elaborate.

The source said investigators had learned that Mr Nor had given details of the late abbot’s bank accounts and his ID card, as well as a new phone number to another aide. This aide then contacted the bank and changed the mobile number tied to the accounts for electronic transactions in late October last year.

Mr Nor then allegedly began siphoning money from the two bank accounts in late November last year.

The source said CSD found many assets in Mr Nor’s possession, including Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Volvo, BMW and Lexus cars, a huge amount of cash, huge deposits in his bank accounts, luxury handbags, land title deeds and gold amulets.