A FORMER high-ranking official at the National Buddhism Office (NBO) and a senior monk yesterday denied allegations that they had embezzled state funds for temples.
Narongdej Chainet, a former chief of the Sing Buri Buddhism Office, and Phra Ratcharattana-muni, assistant abbot of Pichayayatiakaram Temple, reported themselves to the Counter Corruption Division (CCD) police yesterday.
“Both denied any wrongdoing. They also said they would testify only in court,” CCD commander Pol Maj-General Kamol Rienracha said.
Narongdej has been accused of taking Bt38.5 million in kickbacks from four temples after the NBO granted them Bt88 million. The four temples are: Pichayayatiakaram Temple, Daodeungsaram Temple, Suwannaram Ratchaworawihan Temple and Huai Sai Khao Temple.
Police have questioned several senior officials of the NBO, including the retirees, as evidence suggested that state funds for temples had been embezzled for many years.
Last month, the National Anti-Corruption Commission indicted nine current and former civil servants for embezzlement. Among those indicted are NBO former director Phanom Sornsilp and NBO former deputy director Pranom Kongpikul. The damage is estimated to be well over Bt100 million in total.
The NACC has also recommended disciplinary actions against several NBO officials, who allegedly responded to Pranom’s order in preparing documents retroactively in a bid to cover up her crimes.
The alleged embezzlement was exposed in 2015, when a monk at a southern temple decided to speak up about a senior official’s demand for kickbacks. The probe, which started from that case, later revealed that the demand for kickbacks was widespread.