A SENIOR monk has received a 26-year jail term for colluding with a former National Buddhism Office (NBO) chief to embezzle temple funds.
Phra Khru Kitti Patcharakhun, abbot of Lat Khae Temple and the monastic chief of Phetchabun’s Chon Daen district, was found guilty yesterday for embezzling more than Bt24 million out of the Bt28-million budget the NBO had earmarked for 12 temples in four provinces. The court named then-NBO chief Nopparat Benjawatananan as the accomplice. Nopparat fled from Thailand during the investigation process.
The statute of limitations in the case will expire in 2036.
“We will appeal,” the former abbot’s lawyer said after hearing the verdict from the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases.
The monk had pleaded not guilty, claiming that he had simply complied with Nopparat’s suggestion, because the latter was a senior official.
According to the monk, temples were asked to return in cash most of the funds that the NBO had transferred to their bank accounts. Nopparat claimed these funds would be used for temples in the restive South, the monk said.
However, the court was not convinced, saying that the defendant as a senior monk should have known what was appropriate. With his high-ranking monastic position, a conviction would carry double the usual penalty. Hence, his actual sentence totals 39 years, though it was commuted to 26 years because the court found his testimony somewhat useful.
As of press time yesterday, the monk’s lawyer was still trying to bail him out. If the bail request is rejected, the monk will be defrocked and sent to jail.
As parts of the bail request, the lawyer has suggested that the monk be made to wear an electronic monitoring device and restrict his travel.
While the court trials were ongoing, the monk had been granted a Bt1.5-million bail.
Sources said Phra Khru Kitti Patcharakhun has also been fighting a Criminal Court lawsuit over allegations that he sexually abused three girls – all under the age of 15. The trial has concluded and the Criminal Court is scheduled to read its verdict on June 27.
In a related development, 10 suspects including former senior monks who were part of the Sangha Supreme Council, are now in jail pending trial over charges of embezzling more than Bt200 million in temple funds.
Phanom Sornsilp, another former chief of the NBO, is also implicated in the embezzlement.