A notorious former monk has been convicted of further serious offenses in Thailand, including kidnap and rape of a girl under 15 years of age, who later bore him a child.
The verdict by the Criminal Court in Bangkok came just months after he was found guilty of fraud, money laundering and breaking the Computer Crime Act – crimes for which he received a 114-year jail term.
On Wednesday, Wirapol Sukphol, 39, known as the “jet-set monk”, was found guilty of child kidnapping and sexual abuse and given eight-year sentences for each offense, the court said.
The court was told he abducted the 13-year-old girl from her parents and sexually assaulted her for two years in 2000 and 2001.
Wirapol rejected the charges, but the court said there was no reason for the witnesses to lie. Meanwhile DNA from a cigarette he smoked matched his, as well the DNA of the child he had with the girl he abducted.
The court said Wirapol deserved harsh punishment because he had fled to the United States to avoid judicial proceedings and given the Buddhist faith a bad image.
Wirapol is the former abbot of Pa Khantitham, a forest monastery in Sisaket province in the Thai Northeast near the border with Cambodia. He earned his nickname from a video that showed him sitting in a private jet wearing designer sunglasses, holding wads of cash and carrying a Louis Vuitton bag (as pictured above).
In August he was convicted of using his status as head of Wat Pakhantitham between February 2009 and June 2013, when he was known as Luang Pu Nenkham, to attract donations to build “the world’s largest Buddha statue” in jade and gold, and other projects.
The monk fled to the US after the video of him on the private jet led to media exposure of his lavish life and the fact he had bought numerous properties and about 80 cars.
In July 2017, he was extradited back to Thailand from the US to be disrobed and face charges lodged by 29 donors, who sued him for money they’d given him.
The Civil Court ordered the confiscation of assets worth more than 43 million baht (US$1.3 million).
Wirapol’s 16-year sentence will be added to the prison term he received in August. However, 20 years is the maximum term that a convict serves under Thai law.
The military junta that seized power in mid-2014 has taken a hard line against monks who break the law because of a spate of scandals tainted the Buddhist faith in recent years.
In May the abbot of the “Golden Mount” temple in Bangkok was arrested after $4 million was found in bank accounts in his name, AFP reported. Police are also investigating allegations of serious financial wrongdoing within the National Office of Buddhism.
And early last year, soldiers raided the temple of the Dhammakaya sect, said to be worth billions of dollars, in northern Bangkok to detain its controversial abbot on accusations of massive fraud. He eluded capture and remains at large.
– with reporting from AFP