Five Buddhist monks, accused of helping a former abbot embezzle funds from a temple in north-east Thailand, have been denied bail. The 5 monks, named only as Boonsong, Boonluea, Thanakrit, Bandit and Natthapach, have been charged with assisting the former abbot to embezzle more than 180 million baht in cash and gold bars from Wat Pa Thammakhiri in Nakhon Ratchasima province.
Coconuts reports that the abbot they colluded with was disrobed on Friday for allegedly stealing from the temple. According to police, the former abbot would order the monks to take large amounts of cash from the temple and hide it at a resort. The cash was moved in a van allegedly driven by Boonsong.
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Police searched the temple on Monday and have so far confiscated over 76 million baht in cash and gold bars, along with ornaments valued at over 22 million baht. Officers are now assessing other items thought to be worth at least 100 million baht, according to the Coconuts report. The money and other items were found buried in a hillside behind the temple.
One neighbour who wants to remain anonymous says he would see the monks and other temple personnel using a structure behind the temple, possibly to conceal things, which made neighbours suspicious.
The arrested monks deny the charges against them, but have been denied bail as each of them is considered a flight risk. Their 38 year old former abbot, Khom Kongkaeo, was arrested in Bangkok and has been charged with conspiring to embezzle funds, dereliction of duty, and receiving stolen goods.
Also charged is another former abbot, identified only as Wuthima, who was arrested in Nakhon Ratchasima, and Khom’s sister, 35 year old Jutatip Phubodeeworachuphan, arrested in the central province of Nonthaburi.