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B100m temple funds theft houses raided

B100m temple funds theft houses raided

Police investigating a 100-million-baht embezzlement at a local temple searched several houses and impounded assets worth millions of baht, including many valuable amulets, on Tuesday.

Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaeo, commander of the Counter Corruption Division, said about 60 police raided four houses in Nakhon Sawan early on Tuesday morning, looking to recover money stolen from Wat Huai Duan in Nong Bua district.

One of the houses belonged to Sanoh Thongpron, the 66-year-old treasurer of the temple, he said.

Within the compound there was a single-storey house, a cottage, pig stalls, a van, a multi-purpose vehicle and a sedan.

Inside the cottage police found more than 10,000 Buddha amulets, many made of gold, worth 200,000-300,000 baht each.

They also seized 10 title deeds covering about 300 rai of land, about 1 million baht in cash and four guns as evidence.

The raids followed a complaint from disciples of Luang Phor Phat Panyakamo, the abbot of the temple, alleging that the temple’s treasurers had embezzled more  than 100 million baht of donations the temple received in 2020 and 2021.

Investigators said Mr Sanoh and two women, Chanya Phetsaibua, 57, and  Booncherd Sukjit, 58, had transferred about 63 million baht from the temple account to their own accounts. That cash had already been returned to the old abbot.

Tuesday’s raids were part of action taken to recover the rest of the embezzled money.

Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said houses owned by the two women and another man,  identified as Kimhan Talapnak, 32, were also searched.

Additional assets and another 3 million baht in cash were impounded as evidence.

Police would examine the source of the impounded assets and had more questions for the four suspects, the commander said.

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