Another monk faces charge of tax evasion
A LAWYER for the abbot of Nakhon Pathom’s Pai Lom Temple yesterday dismissed allegations that the monk had deliberately evaded tax in importing a vintage vehicle.
Speaking at a press conference, Supapatpoj Nitisasathorn – who represents Phra Khru Palad Sitthiwat - denied that the abbot had violated import laws even after the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) announced that there were grounds to press tax-evasion charges against the monk.
“He was given the car by a donor,” Supapatpoj said.
He added that Somchet Khemmatat, who owns a Thai restaurant in Los Angeles, had donated the car and that the import and tax-payment process had been looked after by one of the monk’s followers.
Phra Khru Palad Sitthiwat has also said that he has no reason to evade tax.
“My only intention is to nurture Buddhism. Why would I evade tax?” the abbot said yesterday, The car was described by the DSI as a Panther and categorised as a luxury and antique vehicle.
The abbot said the DSI and other people could believe what they wanted, but he was speaking up because the temple’s legal team thought it was necessary to clarify the issue.
Supapatpoj said the donor had offered the vintage vehicle to the abbot during his religious trip to Los Angeles in 2014.
“The vehicle is over 40 years old and does not even run anymore. It was only put on show in front of the restaurant,” the lawyer said, contradicting the DSI’s statement that the monk had bought the car for US$30,000 (Bt1.05 million).
He went on to say that Phra Khru Palad Sitthiwat had agreed with Somchet’s idea of putting the car on display at Pai Lom Temple to attract more people to the monastery.
“When he returned to Thailand, he raised the issue with his aide Termsak Pitithanasarnsombat, who then handled all the procedures required to bring the vehicle to Thailand,” the lawyer said.
He added that in October last year, the DSI had given the abbot a certificate saying that preliminary investigation showed that the vehicle had been assembled using old auto parts.
“But then the DSI launched a new probe and has now concluded that the monk evaded tax,” the lawyer said, adding that he wondered why the DSI made a big deal about vehicles registered in the names of Phra Khru Palad Sitthiwat and Somdet Chuang, the acting Supreme Patriarch.
The DSI has also said it will press charges against Somdet Chuang over alleged tax evasion and providing false information in connection with the registration of a Mercedes-Benz.
A DSI source said yesterday that the charges against Phra Khru Palad Sitthiwat could be dropped if he agrees to pay fines and surrenders the vehicle to the state.
“But if he refuses, the case will go to court,” the source said.