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Thailand’s ‘jet-set’ monk sentenced to 114 years in prison

Showy big spender extradited to Thailand after fleeing to US; child molest charges pending

A former Thai Buddhist monk who provoked outrage with his lavish lifestyle was sentenced yesterday to 114 years in prison after a court found him guilty of fraud, money laundering and computer crimes.

Wirapol Sukphol, who was seen in a YouTube video in 2013 holding wads of cash on a private jet, returned to Thailand in July last year after being extradited from the US where he had fled.

Wirapol, formerly known by his monastic name Luang Pu Nenkham, was expelled from the monkhood in 2013 after the video surfaced.

He was accused of having sex - a grave offence for monks - with an underage girl, no less, among other charges.

A court in Bangkok sentenced Wirapol to 114 years in prison though he will serve only 20 years because Thai law stipulates that is the maximum for someone found guilty of multiple counts of the same offence.

' SPECIAL POWERS'

"He committed fraud by claiming to have special powers to lure in people, and he also bought many luxury cars which is considered a money-laundering offence," an official at the Department of Special Litigation told Reuters.

The official declined to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Neither Wirapol nor his lawyer were available for comment.

Wirapol faces separate charges of child molestation and child abduction.

A verdict on those is expected in October.

Wirapol's high-profile case highlighted a series of sex and money scandals that have rocked Thailand's Buddhist clergy in recent years, resulting in calls for reforms of religious institutions.

The military government that came to power after a 2014 coup has stepped up efforts to clean up Buddhism by arresting monks involved in corruption scandals and through the introduction of a Bill that reduces the influence of Buddhism's Sangha Supreme Council - the governing body of Buddhist monks. - REUTERS

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