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Suwat: Results achieved after CSD took over

Police from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) have seized assets worth around 100 million baht from a man suspected of embezzling around 190 million baht of funds intended for the renovation of Wat Bowon Niwet Vihara in Bangkok and its associated temples.

The suspect, Apirat, is in his 30s, but his last name has not been released by police. He was first given the pseudonym Noei by the police.

He was arrested in an apartment in Bangkok on March 23. His warrant was issued after National Police Chief Suwat Jangyodsuk assigned the CSD to the investigation.

A source said law enforcement was first alerted after monks at Wat Wachira Thamma Ram in Ayutthaya, one of the branches of Wat Bowon Niwet, discovered irregularities in the temple’s assets, which were later linked to the activities of Mr. Apirat, who was a close acquaintance of Somdet Phra Wannarat, the late abbot of Wat Bowon Niwet.

They filed a complaint with the CSD on March 22.

The acting abbot of Wat Bowon Niwet later discovered that huge sums of money had been transferred from the temple and the late abbot’s personal bank accounts to Mr Apirat.

The source said the embezzlement happened while the late Abbot was receiving treatment for gallbladder cancer at Chulalongkorn Hospital from last December to March. He died on March 15.

A team of investigators, led by CSD Pol Commander Maj Gen Montree Theskhan, looked into the late Abbot’s finances and found that in October last year, Mr Apirat took away bank books belonging to the abbot and at the temple as well as his identity card for a bank and changed the registered mobile phone number to verify that the transactions were his.

Then, between November and January, Mr. Apirat asked the abbot to sign several blank withdrawal slips which Mr. Apirat then completed himself.

Shortly after, police moved in and seized assets including a luxury Bentley, Porsche and Lexus cars, bank books, designer bags and gold-plated amulets, worth around 100 million of baht for consideration, as part of their investigation.

The unit is also coordinating with the Anti-Money Laundering Bureau other legal proceedings, with one source estimating Mr Apirat could have stolen up to 190 million baht from the temple.

Mr. Apirat faces initial charges of fraud, theft, forgery and money laundering.