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

A former Buddhist monk Wiraphon Sukphon was convicted of money laundering fraud and violating the Computer Crime Act

A former Buddhist monk Wiraphon Sukphon was convicted of money laundering fraud and violating the Computer Crime Act

Wirapol Sukphol made headlines in 2013, when he was seen in a YouTube video sitting in a private jet with a Louis Vuitton bag, holding wads of cash and wearing designer sunglasses.

He was officially defrocked upon his return to Thailand in 2017 following a United States court's ruling on an extradition request from Thailand's Department of Special Investigations (DSI).

An image from video which emerged in 2013 shows Wirapol Sukphol or Luang Puu Nen Kham on board a private jet.

The 39-year-old fled to the U.S. but was sent back after he was accused of raping a minor and deceiving donors who gave him money to build the world's largest emerald Buddha image.

The con-man, who claimed he was the reincarnation of a famous miracle-performing monk, was reported to have amassed £20million at the height of his wealth.

A further probe revealed he owned luxury cars and multiple bank accounts valued at about US$700,000.

The judge at Bangkok's Ratchadapisek Criminal Court also ordered Wiraphon, 39, who was already being held at Bangkok Remand Prison, to repay 29 fraud victims a combined Bt28,649,553.

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Wiraphon, extradited from the United States in July previous year, was known as "the jet-set monk" after a video circulated in 2013 showing him aboard a private jet holding a Louis Vuitton bag and wearing brand-name sunglasses.

Another three years' prison time was added for violating the Computer Crimes Act.

The ruling on the rape charge is expected in October, a public prosecutor said. He faces the prospect of an additional 20 years behind bars if convicted.

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.

The rogue monk's lavish lifestyle was strongly at odds with Buddhist teachings and a monk's vow to shun material goods.

Extortion, sex and drug cases tied to the clergy have shocked the public, and authorities a year ago floated the idea of introducing digitised ID cards to better track monks with criminal convictions.

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