Two ex-NOB chiefs faulted for embezzling temple fund

Former director of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) and his three accomplices have been faulted by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for corruption concerning with the state fund provided to Wat Phananchoeng Worawihan.

Former NOB director Nopparat Benjawattananant, former NOB deputy director Phanom Sornsilp, former director of the NOB’s Buddhism Monastery Department Pranom Kongpikul, and Chompunut Chanruechai, a civilian, were accused by the NACC of having embezzled altogether 13 million baht out of 10 million baht fund allocated for Wat Phananchoeng temple in Ayutthaya during the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years.

NACC deputy secretary-general Mr Worawit Sukboon told a news conference at the NACC office on Tuesday (Dec 19) that the four accused worked as a team, scheming the embezzlement plan and dividing duties among them to execute the alleged plan.

According to Mr Worawit, the embezzlement scam began with members of the gang approaching temples across the country informing them about fund for the renovation and development of their temples, but with a condition that a portion of the fund allocated must be returned to the NOB to be reallocated to the other temples.

Once these temples agreed to the deal, the gang would prepare documentation to seek funding from the NOB for the  temples without written requests for the fund from the temples which went against the set regulation.

After the fund was approved and transferred into the bank accounts of the temples, the gang would approach the temples to demand a pay back of a portion of the fund as earlier agreed.

Mr Worawit said that during the 2014 fiscal year, Ms Pranom who was then director of the NOB’s Buddhism Monastery Department approached Wat Phananchoeng in Ayutthaya to inform the temple that it would be allocated with a 10-million baht for renovation and development of the temple, but after the money was wired into the temple’s bank account, the temple must wire 8 million baht into the bank account of Mrs Chompunut for NOB’s activities.

After that, Ms Pranom sought approval from Mr Nopparat, then the NOB director, for the 10-million baht fund for Wat Phanachoeng.

Later,  Wat Phananchoeng temple transferred 8 million baht into the bank account of Mrs Chompunut who then split the amount among the gang members.

In the 2015 fiscal year, another 10-million-baht fund was allocated to the same temple. This time, the fund allocation was approved by Mr Phanom Sornsilp in his capacity as the acting director of NOB. The temple later transferred 5 million baht to Ms Pronom’s account.

Mr Worawit said that Mr Nopparat, Mr Phanom and Ms Pranom were accused of being co-conspirators of the embezzlement scheme whereas Mrs Chompunut was treated as an accomplice of the embezzlement plot.

The NACC would forward its resolution to the NOB for taking disciplinary actions against the accused and to the Office of Attorney-General for criminal action.