Corrupt ex-Buddhist office chief loses appeal against 20-year sentence

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Corrupt ex-Buddhist office chief loses appeal against 20-year sentence

Former National Office of Buddhism director Phanom Sornsilp after his arrest by Crime Suppression Division officers in Bangkok on Aug 1, 2018. (File photo)

The Appeal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases has upheld the 20-year sentences given to former Buddhist office chief Phanom Sornsilp and another senior official for embezzlement of temple funds.

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Lesser sentences passed on two lay accompices were also confirmed.

Phanom is serving a total of 94 years in this and other cases involving embezzlement of temple funds while director of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB).

He and his accomplices were convicted of offering generous funding for temples to cover the cost of renovations and repairs, Dhamma study courses and religious festivals, and other promotions.

They explicitly instructed those temples to return most of the funds under the table. The money was kept for their personal use.

In this case, Phanom, 64,and accomplice Wasawat Kittithirasit, former director of the NOB’s Office of Temple Renovation and Development and Religious Welfare were convicted of malfeasance and embezzlement in the handling of temple funds.

Two laymen, Jetsada Wongmek and Charin Mingkwan, who were tasked with contacting temples, were convicted and sentenced in the same case, 

The four were accused of colluding in embezzling money the NOB allocated to temples for renovation work.

The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases earlier sentenced Phanom and Wasawat to 20 years in jail each, Jetsada to 6 years and 8 months, and Charin to 20 months.

The court also ordered Phanom and Jetsada to jointly return 12 million baht to the NOB. Wasawat and Charin  were ordered to jointly repay 3 million baht to the office.

The defendants appealed the rulings. They were denied bail.

The Appeal Court gave its decision in this case on Oct 21, up[holding the lower court’s ruling, but it was not made public until Friday.

On May 19, the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct cases found the ex-Buddhist office chief and accomplices at his office guilty of embezzing about 50 million baht allocated to temples in Nonthaburi province in 2013 and 2014. 

Phanom was sentenced to 52 years in that case, raising his accumulative prison sentence to 94 years.

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