A Thai Buddist monk who lived a life of luxury, had a fleet of expensive cars and was pictured on a jet with wads of cash has been jailed for 114 years.
Wirapol Sukphol was found guilty of fraud, money laundering and computer crimes this week.
The 38-year-old was expelled from monkhood in 2013 when details of his lavish lifestyle emerged and provoked outrage as it went against everything his religion stood for.
Monks are expected to live a simple and meditative life, and abandon a life of pleasure.
However, an investigation into him uncovered at least 200 million Thai baht (£4.6m) in 10 bank accounts, and the purchase of 22 Mercedes Benz cars.
He also had multiple homes, including a mansion in southern California.
Wirapol was also seen in a YouTube video in 2013 holding wads of cash on a private jet. The clip went viral and led to him being expelled from monkhood.
He returned to Thailand in July 2017 after being extradited from the United States where he had fled.
Wirapol, formerly known by his monastic name Luang Pu Nenkham, has also been accused of having sexual intercourse – a grave offence for monks – with an underage girl, among other charges.
A criminal court in Bangkok sentenced Wirapol this week in relation to the fraud, money laundering and computer crimes charges.
Despite being sentenced to 114 years, he will only serve 20 as Thai law stipulates that is the maximum for someone found guilty of multiple counts of the same offence.
“He committed fraud by claiming to have special power 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 court found him guilty of multiple offences which resulted in a 114-year jail term when combined, which means he will actually serve 20 years in jail,” he said.
Neither Wirapol nor his lawyer were available for comment. Wirapol faces separate charges of child molestation and child abduction.
A verdict in that case 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.
They have introduced a bill that reduces the influence of Buddhism’s Sangha Supreme Council – the governing body of Buddhist monks.