Authorities yesterday search a luxury house in Bangkok’s Taling Chan district linked to former National Buddhism Office chief Nopparat Benjawatananan, a fugitive suspect in the alleged embezzlement of state subsidies for temples.
Authorities yesterday search a luxury house in Bangkok’s Taling Chan district linked to former National Buddhism Office chief Nopparat Benjawatananan, a fugitive suspect in the alleged embezzlement of state subsidies for temples.

Stricter accounting measures announced for temples as corruption investigation deepens

national October 12, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

NEW FINANCIAL measures are being introduced to monitor the income and expenses at temples, Somkiat Thongsri, director of the Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand (SCC), said yesterday.



Each temple will be responsible to provide account books of daily income and expenses, bank account books and annual financial statements to the National Buddhism Office (NBO).

The process will be tested at Bangkok’s Wat Daowaduengsaram for the 2018 fiscal year before being expanded to temples nationwide, he said. 

The SSC also assigned the NBO to produce an accounting handbook for temples and arrange training for administrative monks to ensure the same standards are followed, Somkiat said.

He said he would soon discuss the new accounting procedures with the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission (OPSDC) to ensure all temples’ are prepared.

Since 1968, temples have been required by the Sangha Act 1962 ministerial regulations to present their account books for senior monks’ inspection once a year. 

That rule was changed in 2007 to enable provincial NBO branch offices to inspect the books with OPSDC help, after it was found that only 30 per cent of 40,000 temples were following proper accounting measures.

Meanwhile, authorities yesterday searched a house in Bangkok’s Taling Chan district linked to the wife of former NBO chief Nopparat Benjawatananan as part of an investigation into the alleged embezzlement of more than Bt200 million from state subsidies for temples in recent years.

Nopparat, who served as NBO chief from 2010-2014, was accused and fled Thailand along with his family a year ago. 

Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) deputy chief Pol Major-General Romsit Weeriyasan led AMLO officials and Counter Corruption Division (CCD) police officers to search the luxury house of Pattaranan Benjawatananan, who married Nopparat in 2013. 

An initial probe found that the house – believed to have been bought with the embezzled money - was registered in Pattaranan’s daughter’s name after it was bought with Bt49 million in cash in 2013. The daughter was only 20 years old at the time. 

The head of the housing estate guards, Chaiyon Malaipoung, told authorities that Nopparat’s driver came to the house on Sunday and moved a pickup truck loaded with boxes, reportedly containing documents, out of the house. 

Officers found three safes in Nopparat’s bedroom along with documents confirming his ownership of the house and papers linked to temple fund embezzlements.

The search was part of the investigation into the alleged embezzlement between 2012 and 2016 of subsidies to repair 12 temples that had suffered Bt62 million in damages. 

Accused alongside Nopparat in the first part of the investigation were three NBO officials, four lay citizens and one monk – all of whom are supposed to report to police today after being summoned. The AMLO transaction committee has seized 33 assets worth Bt71 million from nine people.

Authorities searched 14 Nakhon Pathom locations on September 21 as part of the second part of the probe, concerning the alleged Bt141 million embezzlement in 2012-2017 of three subsidies: the fund to maintain and restore temples, the fund to support Buddhism propagation and the fund to support 23 Phrapariyatidhamma schools. 

In the September 21 searches, officers seized 80 gold bars, each weighing 15 grams, land title deeds and documents from the house of NBO former boss Phanom Sornsilp. 

Officers filed charges against Phanom under the Criminal Code involving dereliction of duty and abuse of authority in the appropriation of funds. 

The AMLO plans to file a complaint with the CCD next week against the second batch of 19 suspects, including 13 civil servants and four monks.

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