A former military official who posed as an aide to Anti-Corruption Unit chief Om Yentieng and used his purported power to extort money from high-ranking police and government officials was yesterday sentenced to three years in prison and fined $9,500.
Chea Sopheap, also known as Chea Sovannarith, 38, a former RCAF major, last week confessed to his crimes after police arrested him on September 12 at an ACLEDA Bank branch in Prampi Makara district’s Mittapheap commune in Phnom Penh.
The arrest came after the deputy chief of Kampot provincial police, Colonel Thlang Phirin, complained that Chea Sopheap had extorted thousands of dollars from him.
Oeung Seang, vice-president and judge for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, yesterday said that from the beginning of the year until his arrest, Chea Sopheap had being using the fake aide position and using ACU chief Om Yentieng’s name in order to influence and extort thousands of dollars from other provincial police officials and governors across Cambodia.
Other high-ranking victims of his fraud and extortion included Sor Theth, chief of Battambang provincial police, who lost about US$3,000; Thlang Phirin, deputy chief of Kampot provincial police who turned over about $1,000 in cash; Keo Pisey, chief of Kampong Speu provincial police ($200); Nuon Samin, former chief of Kampong Cham provincial police ($500); and Mondulkiri governor Chan Yoeun ($200).
Chea Sopheap declined to comment about his sentence yesterday.
However, he told the court last Thursday that opportunity had inspired his extortion.
“I decided to ask for money from these people because I had known they had been involved in corruption or other irregular activities,” Chea Sopheap, who is also a former military official, said.
Yi Kear, personal assistant to Kampot provincial police’s deputy chief, Thlang Phirin, said that on August 8, Chea
Sopheap had called Thlang Phirin to tell him he was working with Om Yentieng and needed cement to build a new camp for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit in Kampong Speu province.
After receiving Chea Sopheap’s phone calls, Thlang Phirin called the Anti-Corruption Unit’s head office in Phnom Penh to ask about him.
After confirming Chea Sopheap did not work for Om Yentieang, Thlang Phirin plotted his arrest by sending $1,000 to him via an ACLEDA Bank branch in Phnom Penh, Yi Kear said.
“He was arrested by police when he went to receive money from the victim.”
Chea Sopheap had requested a pardon after confessing his crimes to the court last week, saying he had made some “mistakes”.