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Contractor wanted in temple funds case arrested


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One of the suspects sought over alleged embezzlement of state-provided temple funds was arrested in Nakhon Si Thammarat province on Friday.


The suspect was identified as Jessada Wongmek, 38.

Sources said Jessada was a building contractor who allegedly approached four temples and promised kickbacks if he were awarded contracts to repair monasteries.

Pol Colonel Phumin Phumpanmoung, a superintendent at the Crimes Suppression Division, led a police team to arrest Jessada at his electronic appliances shop in Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Muang district on Friday.

The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases had approved an arrest warrant for Jessada on Wednesday on charges of abetting officials to abuse authority or engaging in corrupt practices.

Jessada was one of 11 suspects for whom arrest warrants had been issued in connection with the third lot of alleged temple-fund embezzlements this week.

On Wednesday eight suspects were rounded up, including a former director of the National Buddhism Office, Panom Sornsilp.

Jessada is the ninth suspect to be arrested.

Two other wanted persons, Panom’s predecessor Nopparat Benjawatananun and former deputy Pranom Kongpikul, are still on the run.

Police said Pranom might have fled Thailand.

Nopparat, a key suspect, left Thailand a long time ago and is believed to be living in the United States.

Central Investigation Bureau chief Pol Lt-General Thitiraj Nonghanpitak said on Friday that police would try to bring the fugitives to justice.

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