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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ACU set to call ousted judge

Keo Sary, the mother of fugitive Thong Sarath
Keo Sary, the mother of fugitive Thong Sarath, is escorted by authorities into Phnom Penh Municipal Court last week after she allegedly violated her bail conditions. Heng Chivoan

ACU set to call ousted judge

The Anti-Corruption Unit will summon ousted Phnom Penh Municipal Court president Ang Maltey this week for questioning in connection with alleged bribes paid by the parents of a fugitive tycoon to secure their release on bail earlier this month.

Anti-Corruption Unit president Om Yentieng told reporters at ACU headquarters yesterday that he had launched a sweeping investigation into the release of Oknha Thong Sarath’s parents and had already questioned a number of individuals related to the case.

The announcement came as Prime Minister Hun Sen swatted away allegations that Maltey’s removal represented executive interference in the judiciary but simultaneously appeared to contest the very principle of separation of powers.

In a speech last Tuesday, the premier suggested a multi-million dollar bribe may have been paid to an unnamed judge to secure Thong Chamroeun and Keo Sary’s release on February 7 and called for the Justice Ministry to investigate.

Within hours, Maltey had been removed from his position by the Supreme Council of Magistracy, and municipal court judge Ly Sokleng, who granted the bail request, was placed under investigation.

But speaking at a graduation ceremony yesterday morning, Hun Sen said he had not abused his executive power, as has been alleged by some rights groups, opposition lawmakers and analysts.

“There are some people that said I did a good job, while some said I abused the power of the judiciary,” he said.

“I did not abuse the power. However, please examine these three powers – the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. They cannot be separated from each other.”

On Sunday, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights expressed concern that the Supreme Council of Magistracy’s decisions had been the result of executive interference.

A day later, Hun Sen warned NGOs not to overstep their role.

“Do not be too proud about yourself as NGOs, so that you step on the head of the executive,” he said.

Separately yesterday, Yentieng said the ACU had already questioned Sarath’s mother Keo Sary, “second wife” Teav Thyda, other family members and lawyer Ros Phalla in connection with the case.

Pich Prumhmony, the military general that allegedly acted as Maltey’s right-hand man at the Phnom Penh Court and was charged on Friday in connection with improper activities there, will also be questioned this week.

“This week, we need to meet two to three more people, including Pich Prumhmony and Ang Maltey,” Yentieng said.

“[They] must answer my questions over this problem. Questioning Pich Prumhmony and questioning Mr Ang Maltey is clearly in our plan and we already have questions [for them].”

The ACU is also investigating the bank accounts of Thong Sarath’s Meanchey Investment Company to check for irregular payments, Yentieng said.

Numerous court officials, however, have told the Post that Yentieng and Maltey have a historically close relationship. Yentieng, who visited Sarath’s parents personally in prison last Thursday, said he was busy in a meeting when contacted by phone.

Sarath is believed to be hiding out in Vietnam and has been accused of masterminding the November murder of Shimmex Group tycoon Ung Meng Cheu on Sihanouk Boulevard.

Sarath’s parents, Chamroeun and Sary, were charged with illegal weapons possession in early December and imprisoned. After being released on bail on February 7, they were caught en route to Vietnam on February 15, provoking Hun Sen’s tirade about the court’s decision.

Morn Keosovin, a lawyer for the couple, said yesterday that he questioned them in prison on Friday about the alleged bribe payment.

“They said they did not know anything about this alleged crime . . . I am trying to clarify this point. I am just following what they say,” he said.

Keosovin added, however, that the court’s decision to charge the pair with illegal weapons possession was misguided, because oknhas such as them need guns to “defend their houses”.

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