Police searched the living quarters of Phra Sitthi Woranayok, abbot of Wat Khao Durian in tambon Khao Phra of Muang district, about 6am this morning, reports the Bangkok Post. The abbot is also deputy ecclesiastic chief of Nakhon Nayok.
He was charged with embezzling about B110mn of development funds intended for local temples from 2007 to 2016 in a conspiracy with Nopparat Benjawatananun, former chief of the National Office of Buddhism.
Police said the two men had disbursed B123mn from the government coffers during the nine-year period for the development of 12 local temples.
But after the temples received the money, they had the management of the temples withdraw most of the funds and the two men managed to keep B110mn for themselves, leaving only B13mn with the local temples.
They claimed that the money they kept would support development projects at other temples in need.
Police said Phra Sitthi Woranayok and Mr Nopparat instead shared the money they kept and spent it buying land and other assets. They each bought three blocks of land, covering about 10 rai, for B18.6mn from land owners close to them. The property acquisition was seen as money laundering, police said.
Authorities believe Mr Nopparat fled the country in 2016. A luxury house believed to belong to him was searched in 2017 and many assets and documents impounded for examination.