DSI summons tycoon Anant

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - Land and Houses chief to be questioned over money laundering charges linked to Dhammakaya temple land plots.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has sent summons to property tycoon Anant Asavabhokhin, chairman and CEO of Land and Houses Plc, to appear next month for questioning. 

The DSI will question him over alleged conspiracy, money laundering and the illegal diversion of funds from the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) to buy multi-million-baht land plots for the controversial Dhammakaya Temple.

DSI chief Pol Colonel Paisit Wongmuang said Anant, who is one of Thailand’s richest people, was expected to meet investigators early next month, adding that authorities had clear evidence implicating him in the crimes.

Shares of Land and Houses Plc dropped 4 per cent yesterday to close at Bt9.55 per share. Anant and his family are also major shareholders of L&H Bank and other businesses. 

Anant’s daughter had already been summoned by the DSI for questioning in connection with the probe into Dhammakaya Temple affairs and related issues.

The DSI chief said another business tycoon and former politician, Pradit Phataraprasit, who had also purchased one of the land plots, was not facing any charges since there was a civil court injunction on that land plot.

According to the DSI, Supachai Srisupa-arksorn, the former chairman of KCUC, diverted Bt275 million from the cooperative to acquire M-Home SPV 2 Co, whose assets included several land plots in Klong Luang district, Pathum Thani province.

One of the land plots measuring about 46 rai (7.4 hectares) was sold under a contract in 2011 to Anant for Bt93.7 million, far below the official appraised price of Bt281 million.

Paisit said there was no evidence the payment for the sale of the land plot was made to the owner M-Home SPV 2 Co.

Anant later sold the land to an unnamed buyer for Bt492 million after which the property tycoon allegedly donated Bt303 million to Dhammakaya Temple’s Khun Yay Maha Ratana Upasika Chandra Khonnokyoong Foundation and pledged to donate the property to the foundation.

The foundation was under the patronage of Phra Dhammachayo, the controversial former abbot of Dhammakaya Temple, who is wanted on money-laundering charges. However, the ownership document of the multi-million-baht property showed that Anant was still the owner, pointing to the possibility of a bogus sales contract and donation, according to the DSI.

Another large land plot owned by M-Home SPV 2 Co was later sold to Pradit. According to the DSI, the sale was approved by the new board of the KCUC after Supachai was removed as chairman and faced prosecution for embezzling more than Bt13 billion from depositors of the credit cooperative.

Kesara Manchusree, president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, said the listed company Land and Houses needed to clarify the situation after the DSI summons Anant for questioning.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which oversees Thailand’s capital markets, said in a statement that the agency was closely following developments.

According to SEC law, a person will be disqualified from holding the position as a director of a listed company if he or she is convicted of money laundering or other criminal charges or is found to be in violation of other related laws.

Meanwhile, police have finalised more charges against Phra Dhammachayo for encroaching on forestland and other public land in several provinces where the former abbot had commissioned the building of monasteries.

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