The husband and wife convicted last week of breach of trust for embezzling US$38 million from Anco Brothers Company will appeal the verdict, and are claiming that the charges against them were motivated by jealously over their swift accumulation of wealth.
Heng Chheang, former deputy general director of Anco Brothers, told the Post yesterday that the charges against him and his wife Tep Kolap, a former rector of Phnom Penh International University, were an attempt to grab their family’s property.
They were found guilty of siphoning the funds from Anco Brothers – which distributes Budweiser beer, Evian water and British American tobacco products in Cambodia – since 2008. Heng Chheang is the nephew of the wife of the company’s owner, Senator Kok An.
“I did not commit the crime. I did not take any money from Anco Brothers for my own family . . . and neither did my wife,” Heng Chheang said. “The accusations are the result of Kok An’s jealousy over my family’s swift rise in wealth.
“He was jealous of us and he prepared the charges and dropped them on us in order to grab control of all our property,” Heng Chheang said.
“All the property that my family received came from the sweat of our hard work and businesses,” he added.
He said he and his wife would appeal the verdict and their four-and-a-half year sentences at the Court of Appeal “soon”.
Heng Chheang added that the trial was illegal because it proceeded without the presence of him, his wife and their lawyers. He said he had requested the trial be delayed due to his and his wife’s health problems and their lawyers’ inability to attend because they were too busy.
He called on the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to review the case and retry them, and repeated his appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen and First Lady Bun Rany to intervene.
Ourn Hing, a lawyer for Heng Chheang and Tep Kolap, said: “There were a lot of irregularities in the case, starting with the investigating judge and continuing to the trial.
“As a defence lawyer, I cannot accept the trial and verdict . . . I would like to ask the court to review the case and retry them,” he added.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court president Chiv Keng and the judge who tried the pair, Leang Samnath, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Long Dara, a lawyer for Kok An, said a civil suit would be launched to recoup the money the pair embezzled. He said that audits going back to 2001 found that Heng Chheang had transferred almost $60 million from the company’s accounts into various accounts registered under his and his wife’s name. They will also be asked to pay an additional $300,000 in compensation, Long Dara said.