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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Anco couple claim innocence, call on Chea Sim for help

Anco couple claim innocence, call on Chea Sim for help

The couple found guilty of embezzling US$34 million from a company owned by Senator Kok An have appealed to the tycoon’s superior, Senate president Chea Sim, to correct what they describe as a violation of their rights, illegal detention and kidnapping for ransom.

Their 19-page letter to Chea Sim re-asserts the innocence of Heng Chheang, former deputy general director of Anco Brothers, and his wife Tep Kolap, a former rector of Phnom Penh International University, and reiterates their claim that Kok An used the court to grab their wealth, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Post along with more than 100 pages of supporting documents that accompanied it.

The pair were each sentenced on December 8 to four and a half years in prison.

They had embezzled the money from Anco Brothers Company – which distributes British American Tobacco products, Evian water and Budweiser beer in Cambodia – between 2008 and 2010, the court found.

“My arrest and my wife’s arrest were illegal,” the letter from Heng Chheang reads, adding it also violated a justice ministry order from 2006.

This order, he said, called for any allegation of fraud or breach of trust to be thoroughly investigated before charges were filed in order to protect investors from false claims.

“We cannot accept the court’s actions and [Judge] Te Sam Ang’s decision against us because we did not commit the crime we were accused of,” the letter says.

Heng Chheang disputed the auditor’s finding that more than $58 million had been transferred from Anco to his and his wife’s accounts between 2001 and 2010.

The total was almost $62 million, he said, adding that it had been repaid and had been transferred with permission.

“No money is missing [from the company]. I have researched the documents and  found that I had transferred it all back,” he said.

Kok An’s accusations against him and his wife were sparked by jealousy over his family’s swift rise to wealth, he told the Post last month.

He said the trial was unjust because he, his wife and the legal team had not been present. The accused had said they were too ill to attend, while their lawyers said they were too busy.

Heang Chheang has diabetes and his wife has been hospitalised for high blood pressure and a heart ailment, he says in the letter.

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