RELIGION

Thailand to charge Buddhist sect chief with money laundering

In this Feb. 22, 2016 photo, Thai Buddhist monks pray and gather at Wat Dhammakaya temple to participate in Makha Bucha Day ceremonies in Pathum Thani, Thailand, The Office of the Attorney-General announced Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016 its decision to bring to court Phra Dhammachayo, the abbot of Wat Dhammakaya, a monastery north of Bangkok. He and four other persons will be charged with conspiracy to launder money, money laundering and receiving stolen property. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

In this Feb. 22, 2016 photo, Thai Buddhist monks pray and gather at Wat Dhammakaya temple to participate in Makha Bucha Day ceremonies in Pathum Thani, Thailand, The Office of the Attorney-General announced Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016 its decision to bring to court Phra Dhammachayo, the abbot of Wat Dhammakaya, a monastery north of Bangkok. He and four other persons will be charged with conspiracy to launder money, money laundering and receiving stolen property. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)  (The Associated Press)

State prosecutors in Thailand say they intend to indict the head of a powerful Buddhist sect on charges of money laundering and related crimes.

The Office of the Attorney-General announced Wednesday its decision to bring to court Phra Dhammachayo, the abbot of Wat Dhammakaya, a monastery north of Bangkok. He and four other persons will be charged with conspiracy to launder money, money laundering and receiving stolen property.

The case involves 1.4 billion baht ($40 million) embezzled from a credit union that allegedly reached the temple's coffers. Three of the accused will be arraigned at court on Nov. 30, but Dhammachayo and the fifth suspect are at large after evading arrest warrants earlier this year.

The Dhammakaya sect is controversial because it is ostentatiously wealthy and politically influential.