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Conviction stands in Pursat extortion case

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld former Pursat provin-cial prosecutor Top Chan Sereyvuth’s 19-year extortion and illegal detention sentence  but acknowledged he had not participated in the crime dir-ectly and reduced his charges to those of an accomplice.

Presiding judge Khim Ponn said that despite the reduced charges, Chan Sereyvuth, 58, would continue to serve his sentence, which included a four million riel fine.

Chan Sereyvuth’s driver, Chhit Vuthy, 40, and his bodyguard, Ros Samnang, will serve their 16- and 15-year sentences, respectively, also for extortion and illegal detention.

The court also upheld the 18-year sentence of Chan Sereyvuth’s brother-in-law, Pich Kong You, who was originally convicted in absentia after evading arrest in 2010.

“The court has found Top Chan Sereyvuth did not dir-ectly commit the act of illeg-ally detaining the two victims and extorting money for their release,” Judge Ponn said.

“But he was involved with his colleagues’ activities because he facilitated them and provided the means, and his own car, for them to commit the crimes.”

The defendants were arrested in November, 2010 for detaining Khol Soknha, an illegal-logging suspect, and demanding $3,000 for his release.

At his appeal, Chan Sereyvuth’s lawyer argued his client was innocent, and that a forestry official named Ri Lay should be investigated for the crimes.

Soknha, the plaintiff, testified at the time that he had never seen Chan Sereyvuth during the crackdown, and Pich Kong You had ordered his arrest.

Ri Lay, for his part, maintained that Kong You worked as a “representative” of Chan Sereyvuth.

The defendants and their lawyers were not present in court yesterday, but Nou Chantha, Chan Sereyvuth’s lawyer, said the decision was within the court’s rights. He declined to comment further.

Kheng Seng, a senior off-icial at the Anti-Corruption Unit, said the ACU was not surprised by the court’s decision, and that the “ACU appreciates the court’s work and the decision”.

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