Ex-monk Nen Kham given 114 years
The Criminal Court yesterday sentenced former monk Nen Kham to 114 years in jail for deceiving 29 people into donating to bogus Buddhist and disaster relief projects and using the money to buy a jet and luxury cars.
Of the 114-year jail term, the court sentenced Wirapol Sukphol, 39, to 87 years in jail for public fraud, three years for computer crime and 24 years for money laundering.
However, the court capped the jail term he will serve at the maximum 20 years as required under Section 91 of the Penal Code for multiple offences.
The court also ordered him to repay the 29 complainants.
The defendant was taken from the Bangkok Remand Prison to hear the verdict. His followers also appeared at the court to give him moral support.
Wirapol was a monk at Wat Pa Khantitham in Kanthararom district, Si Sa Ket province. Also known as Nen Kham, he had been extradited from the United States last year and jailed since.
In July last year, public prosecutors told the court that from Feb 17, 2009, to June 27, 2013, Nen Kham had told people that in his dream deity Indra had asked him to build a Buddha image as well as sacred objects and temples.
Among t hem were the world’s largest Buddha image made from emerald imported from Italy to be housed by a grand temple, three sets of gold seasonal attire for the Buddha, 199 temple pillars each valued at 300,000 baht as well as a gold image of himself and more temples in Ubon Ratchathani and Suphan Buri provinces.
He then invited people to make donations including cash, gold and other assets for his projects, as well as a plan to buy boats from the US to help flood victims.
Besides, he had inputted false information on construction for the projects via www.luangpunenkham.com.
Later 29 people filed a complaint that they had been lured into believing that Nen Kham was a good monk and they donated cash and other assets worth altogether 28.65 million baht.
Nen Kham denied all charges.
The court found that Nen Kham did not implement the projects. He instead used the donated money to finance his lavish lifestyle, including buying a private jet and many expensive vehicles including Porsche and BMW cars, all of which were registered under his name.
The ex-monk’s illegally acquired money was also found circulating in his 23 bank accounts.
An inspection conducted by authorities also indicated the Buddha statue was carved from limestone not Italy-imported emerald as claimed by the defendant.
Earlier, the Civil Court confiscated 43.47 million baht from Nen Kham as he was unable to explain the sources of his wealth.
Nen Kham was also tried on the charge of raping a minor. The alleged offence forced him to leave monkhood and the Criminal Court will hand down a verdict on the case in October.
Nen Kham: Will serve 20-year maximum