Three Buddhist nuns have been arrested and charged with running a pyramid scheme-like fund out of a meditation centre in Nakhon Phanom’s Muang district, allegedly defrauding hundreds of investors out of 10 million baht.
A team led by Nakhon Phanom police chief Pol Maj Gen Thanachart Rodkhlongtan apprehended the alleged leader, Mae Chee Ou (nun Ou), at Phra Phutsikkhi meditation centre in tambon Nong Yat of Muang district yesterday.
The nun, 49, whose lay name was given only as Issaree, claimed to hold the clerical title Phraya Thammikkarat Inchaiya. She was named on an arrest warrant issued by the Nakhon Phanom Provincial Court on charges of fraud.
Her arrest followed complaints by more than 400 people that a woman claiming to be the owner of the meditation centre, and her two assistants, had set up pha pa funds similar to a pyramid scheme, with promised high returns in the form of cash and gold adornments.
Each complainant had invested 2,000-3,500 baht. None had received the promised returns.
The two other nuns were arrested on 22nd April and charged. They were identified as Arunee Chanthanam, 45, alias nun Thongphoon of Sakon Nakhon, and Pailin Sunthornsuwan, 31, alias nun Cartoon of Nakhon Phanom. The pair were allegedly tasked with persuading people to invest in the funds.
The court approved their continued detention pending further investigation.
Police planned to ask the Nakhon Phanom Provincial Court to also approve Issaree’s continued detention.
Issaree told reporters she was a noble individual, similar to a noble monk, who did not cling to anything.
She said the pha pa funds were set up to help the poor. The cash would be returned to those who made merit and had faith in the funds, but the payments would be made at an auspicious time.
She claimed those merit-making people had exhibited greed, and this caused problems.
Provincial Buddhism Office chief Julasan Than-inart yesterday said Issaree did not have any clerical title as claimed. She was an ordinary woman. Police could take action against her if she was found to have broken the law.
During the arrest, police also found a monk at the meditation centre, Phra Chokchai Suphattho, 36. He was there from a temple in Sing Buri to practise meditation and had nothing to do with the alleged fraud, Mr Than-inart said.
The monk was told to return to his temple.