Heng Chheang, former treasurer of Anco Brothers Company, and his wife, Tep Kolap, will spend the next three years in jail after the Court of Appeal amended charges against them yesterday, before again declaring they were guilty.
The couple was convicted in December of a breach of trust over $58 million that went missing from Anco Brothers, a company owned by Sok Im, wife of tycoon senator Kok An, while Heng Chheang was at the helm of the company’s finances.
The Court of Appeal upheld a guilty verdict against the couple yesterday, following their appeal on March 1 and 2.
The court, however, changed the charges against Heng Chheang and Tep Kolap, and effectively reduced their previous four-and-a-half-year prison terms by sentencing them to three years behind bars.
Plang Samnang, a judge for the Court of Appeal, said the pair had also been fined US$50,000.
“After listening to all the testimonies, the court has found Heng Chheang and Tep Kolap guilty. So the court upholds Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision,” he read yesterday.
“The Court of Appeal has changed the defendants’ charges from a breach of trust in governance to a breach of trust within articles 10, 391 and 392 of Cambodian penal code.
“The court is convicting them to three years in jail, fining them US$50,000 and ordering them to return $58,973,265.28 to plaintiff Kok An.
“The convicted have the right to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court within 13 days.”
Heng Chheang and Tep Kolap continued to deny the charges yesterday and were critical of the court ruling.
“I could not accept the Court of Appeal’s decision. This is certainly not justice for me because I have not committed the offences as accused,” Heng Chheang said before launching into a tirade about Kok An’s alleged business practices.
“To find justice for myself and my wife, I will appeal to the Supreme Court. I will also take this to the Anti-Corruption Unit and the Ministry of Economy and Finance,” he said.
“I will tell them all about Kok An’s companies’ activities – they have not been paying taxes to the state.
“He has used my personal account and my wife’s account [to accelerate] his illegal-earning business activities in Cambodia,” Heng Chheang said.
Tep Kolap said the court had not examined documents she had submitted as evidence during her appeal.
“I am innocent, but I was convicted and sentenced to jail. It’s something I cannot accept,” she told the Post. “I would like to ask Prime Minister Hun Sen, his wife and the King for help.”
Tep Kolap called on the prime minister to review the entire legal system.
“To make Cambodia a country of law and to prevent other people from being wrongly convicted, I would like to ask Samdech Hun Sen to re-examine the judicial system,” she said.
Hin Sam Ath, Phnom Penh International University’s vice-rector, said more than 400 students and professors of the university had attended court yesterday in support of Tep Kolap, their former rector.
They would be disappointed with the decision, because the court’s decision was not transparent and balanced, but biased toward Kok An, he said.
“I think the decision will affect people’s spirits and will make people lose their trust in the court system,” he said.
Kok An could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his lawyer, Long Dara, told the Post he agreed with the fines and compensation.
“However, the prison sentences given to Heng Chheang and Tep Kolap are too lenient; they are not befitting of their offences,” he said.
“I will be going to meet [Kok An] to discuss the possibility of appealing Heng Chheang and Tep Kolap’s punishment.”