Three alleged fake artefact traders were arrested yesterday in Kampong Thom accused of trying to sell faux ancient statues to undercover police.
Ith Sothea, the provincial prosecutor, sent the undercover police to meet the traders – identified as Hieth, 46, Nhien Nhil, 47, and Narith, 31 – after receiving a tip-off about their activities.
Rom Sovichea, chief of the provincial heritage protection office, said the men had attempted to sell seven statues to the officers for $10,000.
“They made an appointment to meet and they were arrested by the officers, led by the prosecutor,” he said.
Two of the traders were from Kampong Thom’s Sandan district, while Narith was from Kampong Speu, he added.
After inspection by experts from the Ministry of Fine Arts, the statues were determined to be forgeries.
“They were not ancient statues; it was a fraud. The suspects confessed to buying them in Preah Vihear. We’re not sure if they knew they were fake or not,” Sovichea said.
Narith was a known artefact trader, he added, and the sting operation had created several new leads which police are pursuing.
Say Nora, the deputy provincial prosecutor, said the suspects will be put into the custody of the Kampong Thom court system until a date for a court hearing is set.