Five people were tried by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday as accomplices to a deceased suspected drug dealer who was arrested in 2013 with 14 kilograms of crystal meth but who claimed at the time to have been a police informant.
Presiding judge Leang Samnath identified the suspects in the case as the late Cheap Ky Eang, also known as Hak Eang, 49 – who died of a heart attack in Prey Sar prison last September – his wife, Long Vanthy, 45; military officer Srun Bunthoeun, 32; businessmen Ma Phovchuoy, 26; Ma Sok Heng, 29; and Mok Polonh, 32.
“Hak Eang was a drug ringleader, and was charged with drug trafficking and using a weapon without permission,” Samnath said, adding that the other five “were charged as accomplices to drug trafficking”.
According to Colonel Khen Sovann, deputy commander of the Municipal Military Police, the six were arrested in mid-March 2013, in the capital’s Sen Sok district in a raid that yielded 14 kilos of meth, four cars and one gun.
Court vice prosecutor Kol Bon said yesterday that while the charges against Eang were dropped due to his death, he “still maintained the charges against the other five accused, and ask[ed] the judge to sentence them according to the law”.
However, the group denied the charges against them yesterday. Vanthy said she had no idea there were drugs in her house until police confronted her with them, and complained that in addition to the cars, police had seized more than $20,000 in valuables, such as cash and jewellery.
“I would ask that the court drop the charges against me and release me,” she said. “I would also like to ask the court to return my four cars, money and jewellery that police confiscated from my house.”
Pek Vannak, a lawyer for the deceased, said that before his death, Eang had told investigators that the drugs belonged to a Laotian man named “Hann” and that he had been working as a police informant at the time of his arrest, having been recruited – first by disgraced ex-drug czar Moek Dara – after a prior arrest because of his familiarity with drug rings.
Vannak added that Eang had been an important witness against Dara, who was arrested on a litany of corruption charges in 2012.
A verdict in the case is due to be handed down on March 26.