Until a month ago, Wirapol Sukphol (33) was relatively unknown in Thailand. Now he is at the centre of the biggest religious scandal the predominantly Buddhist country has seen in years. His excesses first came to light in June with a YouTube video showing him taking a private jet ride with a Louis Vuitton carry-on, sparking criticism of his un-monkly behaviour and a stream of humorous headlines like, “Now boarding, Air Nirvana.”

Since then, a long list of darker secrets has emerged including his accumulated assets of an estimated one billion baht ($32 million). During a shopping spree from 2009 to 2011, Wirapol bought 22 Mercedes worth 95 million baht ($3.1 million). This week, authorities issued an arrest warrant for him, implicating him on three charges including statutory rape, embezzlement and online fraud to seek donations. This apart, he is also under investigation for money laundering, drug trafficking and manslaughter for a hit-and-run accident. Officials also had him defrocked in absentia.

Wirapol was in France when the scandal surfaced and is believed to have then fled to the United States but his current whereabouts are unknown.

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