Ex-monk Nen Kham given 114 years

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - POST RE­PORTERS

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

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