Monk cost me millions, Thai car shop owner says

THAILAND - The owner of a car-accessory shop in Ubon Ratchathani, questioned recently for allegedly providing 35 cars to Wirapol Sukphol, told the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) yesterday that he had been duped by the former monk - at a cost of millions of baht.

Suparat Wiriyaseubpong, of Saeng Charoen Sound and Motor Sport, said he suffered losses because the monk, now disrobed and a fugitive overseas, conned him into writing 10 cheques worth Bt5 million as instalments to Ubon Ratchathani Benz Centre on Wirapol's behalf. He said he also sent Bt4 million to pay for jewellery and donated Bt3 million for Vihara pillars and a Buddha image. He said he helped the monk because many important people respected him and he was also a good customer.

Suparat said he had been asking for his money back but the monk always avoided the issue. He said he had text messages as evidence to back his claim that he was a victim.

Some 17 vehicles in Suparat's name were seized on Saturday by the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) pending presentation of car-ownership documents.

The shop owner lamented that news of his ties to Wirapol, better known as Luang Pu Nenkham, affected his family's reputation and his business. He insisted that he had documents for the 17 vehicles seized, as well as the 35 cars he procured for Wirapol.

DSI Security Crime Bureau chief Pong-in Intarakhao said it was good that Suparat had revealed information to confirm he was a "damaged party". He said the DSI believed there were many people who had dealings with the monk but were afraid to reveal this for fear it would harm them.

He said the DSI was ready to listen to "victims" as it had with Suparat and give them security.