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‘Temple swindler’ assets to be investigated

Police have found luxury assets worth a total of 100 million baht including a Bentley, Porsche and gold-plated amulets registered under the names of suspected embezzler Apirat Jayankura Na Ayudhya and some of his family members and partner.

Mr Apirat is suspected of embezzling 190 million baht from Wat Bowon Niwet Vihara in Bangkok and its branch temples upcountry.

According to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), Mr Apirat, who was a close acquaintance of Somdet Phra Wannarat, the late abbot of Wat Bowon Niwet, repeatedly transferred money from the temple’s bank accounts into his own.

The police investigation initially uncovered a wealth of goods including the two luxury cars as well as a Volvo, BMW, Lexus, cash, multiple bank accounts, designer bags and the expensive amulets.

Of the nine luxury cars, only a few were registered under Mr Apirat’s name. Documents show the others belonged to Mr Apirat’s family members and a male partner.

Police said they will investigate if those people were involved in the temple embezzlement case.

According to the CSD, Mr Apirat transferred and withdrew cash from Wat Bowon’s temple-related bank accounts without giving any specific reasons.

Officers are now looking into the transactions, worth 80 million baht in total. The CSD said Mr Apirat is also believed to have embezzled money from Wat Bowon Niwet’s branches upcountry, including Wat Wachira Thamma Ram Ayutthaya, as well as Wat Rattanawararam and Wat Khiri Vihara in Trat.

An initial investigation found that about 80 million baht was stolen from a renovation budget for Wat Rattanawararam and another 10 million baht for expanding Wat Khiri Vihara School

The school was built as per instructed in the will of the late abbot Somdet Phra Wannarat of Wat Bowon Niwet, to upgrade the education system in the area of tambon Samrak in Trat’s Muang district.

The abbot of Wat Khiri Vihara, the principal of Wat Khiri Vihara school and another person who donated a 30-rai plot of land for the expansion of Wat Rattanawararam denied any knowledge of the alleged embezzlement.

Mr Apirat was arrested on March 23 at his home in Bangkok. Police found the embezzlement occurred while the late abbot was receiving treatment at Chulalongkorn Hospital for gall bladder cancer from last December.

He passed away on March 15.

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