Ex Office of Buddhism chief given 20 years in prison for temple fund graft

Former director of the National Office of Buddhism (N.O.B.), Panom Sornsilp, was sentenced to 20 years in prison today (Friday), after being found guilty by the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases of corruption in connection with temple funds. 

Also sentenced to 20 years today, on similar charges, was Mr. Wasawat Kittithirasith, former director of the Office of Temple Renovation and Development and Religious Welfare.

Two others, Mr. Jesada Wongmek and Mr. Charin Mingkwan, who served as go-betweens in approaching temples and offering to help them secure funding from the Office of Buddhism for temple renovation in return for a substantial under-the-table commission, were sentenced to six years and eight months and one year and eight months respectively.

The court also ordered Mr. Panom, Mr. Wasawat and Mr. Jesada to return, to the N.O.B., 12 million baht of the ill-gotten gains.

The temple fund scandal dates back to 2017, when the abbot of Wat Takaela in Phetchaburi province filed a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Police Command seeking an investigation, after his temple was allocated 10-million baht by the N.O.B. for renovation, but was told to return the bulk of the money to the officials who helped to secure the funding.

The scam worked by having unofficial brokers, with connections to N.O.B. officials, tell the abbots that they could arrange funding for renovations, but only on the condition that they return 75% of the money to the officials and use what remained for renovation. 

Several temple abbots were involved in the scam and pocketed the funds without actually spending any on temple renovation.  


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