Police chief seeks allies to collar ex-monk

Chakthip meeting Interpol, Germans

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda flew to Paris to visit Interpol headquarters, and now is in Frankfurt to try to apprehend Wat Sa Ket's fugitive ex-assistant abbot Phra Phrom Methee (inset). (File photos)

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda flew to France at the weekend to coordinate with Interpol at its headquarters to pressure Germany into extraditing fugitive former monk Phra Phrom Methee to Thailand, a highly placed police source said Tuesday.

The source said Pol Gen Chakthip boarded a Thai Airways flight to Paris on Sunday to seek help from the international police organisation.

He was then scheduled to travel to Frankfurt to talk with authorities there about bringing the former assistant abbot of Wat Samphanthawong home to stand trial, the source added.

This would be Pol Gen Chakthi's second trip to Germany. He also flew there earlier this month shortly after he was informed that the former monk had left Thailand via Laos bound for Frankfurt.

The former assistant abbot, whose lay name is Chamnong Iamintra, is staying in Germany after he submitted an asylum application to immigration officials immediately upon disembarking at Frankfurt airport.

Pol Gen Chakthip is scheduled to fly back to Bangkok on Saturday.

Mr Chamnong is one of seven former senior monks from three prominent temples -- Wat Sa Ket, Wat Samphanthawong and Wat Sam Phraya -- who were charged with temple fund embezzlement and money laundering.

Five were arrested on May 24. One turned himself into police while the man formerly known as Phra Phrom Methee remains at large.

They were all subject to the third round of an ongoing investigation into the temple fund scandal.

In a related development, the police Counter-Corruption Division (CCD) is probing the alleged embezzlement of funds intended for a school linked to Wat That, a royal monastery in Khon Kaen province. This is part of the fourth phase of the probe.

A CCD team visited Wat That Tuesday morning and asked senior monks there for details about the suspected embezzlement of 18 million baht the temple received from the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) in 2013, an informed source said.

The money was intended for Wiwekkathamprasitwitthaya, a Pariyattitham dhamma school inside the temple, said the source.

A highly placed source said the money was transferred to a bank account belonging to Wat That before it was forwarded to one of the school's accounts by the then-director of the NOB's Buddhism studies division.

The former director split the transaction into three transfers of 3 million baht, 5 million baht and 10 million baht, the source said.

But some time after the 18 million baht enter the school-held bank account, the same ex-director requested the school return 17 million baht to him and ordered that only 1 million baht be left with the school, the source added.

The temple's employees and residents are being treated as witnesses not suspects, the source said.

In another development, the Department of Special Investigation handed over Pisitchai Sawangwatanakorn from its taxation crime bureau to the Crime Suppression Division Tuesday afternoon.

An investigation is being carried out into a Facebook post he made containing false information about the investigation into the temple funds scandal.

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