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Ex-RCAF colonel accused of extortion

A former Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) colonel was tried by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday for allegedly extorting money from a Phnom Penh businessman.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Kor Vandy said defendant Sam Sarith, 43, was charged with fraud with aggravating circumstances, for allegedly coercing businessman Hun Bunthoeun to pay him $15,000 last year.

“[Sarith] repeatedly telephoned the victim, threatening him and extorting between $500 and $1,000 every time,” Vandy said yesterday.

Bunthoeun was first approached by Sarith in 2007, while he was facing a lawsuit related to 11 hectares of land villagers said he took illegally, Bunthoeun said. Sarith told Bunthoeun he must pay him $1 million to bribe court officials to decide in his favour. Sarith eventually agreed to accept $30,000, but Bunthoeun said he was constantly harassed.

“He always telephoned to ask for money; so I decided to file a complaint with the ACU.”

Police arrested Sarith at Yi Sang Restaurant, where he thought he was going to collect $10,000 from Bunthoeun, on September 8. A verdict is due on April 2.

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