Fugi­tive for­mer NBO chief threat­ened by po­lice over tem­ple-sub­sidy scam

The Nation - - AROUND THAILAND -

Nop­pa­rat Ben­jawatananan, the for­mer chief of the Na­tional Bud­dhism Of­fice ( NBO) who is a fugi­tive sus­pect in the al­leged em­bez­zle­ment of more than Bt200 mil­lion from state sub­si­dies for tem­ples, has been told to re­port him­self to po­lice or face an ar­rest war­rant.

A sum­mons has been is­sued for Nop­pa­rat to hear the charge of money-laun­der­ing.

Nop­pa­rat, who served as NBO chief from 2010 to 2014 and is be­lieved to have fled with his fam­ily to an­other coun­try a year ago, re­port­edly re­turned to Thai­land in July to meet a doc­tor, said Royal Thai Po­lice Counter Cor­rup­tion Division (CCD) com­man­der Pol Maj- Gen­eral Kamol Rien­racha.

A doc­tor’s ap­point­ment slip was found dur­ing a search on Wed­nes­day of a house in Bangkok’s Tal­ing Chan district linked to Nop­pa­rat’s wife Pat­taranan Ben­jawatananan.

The house, which is be­lieved to have been bought with em­bez­zled money, was reg­is­tered in Pat­taranan’s daugh­ter’s name when it was bought for Bt49 mil­lion in cash in 2013. Kamol made the com­ments after a meet­ing yes­ter­day with NBO chief Pong­porn Pram­saneh and Anti- Money Laun­der­ing Of­fice (AMLO) of­fi­cers to dis­cuss the em­bez­zle­ment case.

The three agen­cies are work­ing on three el­e­ments of NBO- re­lated cor­rup­tion. They in­volve an al­leged Bt62-mil­lion em­bez­zle­ment be­tween 2012 and 2016 in­volv­ing sub­si­dies to re­pair 12 tem­ples; an al­leged Bt141mil­lion em­bez­zle­ment be­tween 2012 and 2017 in­volv­ing three sub­si­dies, in­clud­ing funds des­ig­nated for 23 Phra­pariya- tid­hamma schools; and an­other case that oc­curred be­fore fis­cal year 2007. Ac­tion is ex­pected in the last case im­mi­nently.

Kamol said that hav­ing the NBO par­tic­i­pate in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would not com­pro­mise the po­lice work and NBO of­fi­cials would not in­ter­vene to tam­per or de­stroy ev­i­dence, be­cause he be­lieved in Pong­porn.

In ad­di­tion to Nop­pa­rat, the first case in­volves three NBO of­fi­cials, four lay cit­i­zens and one monk, all of whom were sum­moned to re­port to the CCD by yes­ter­day.

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