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Drug czar on trial

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Ousted anti-drug czar Moek Dara is escorted by security officers at the Banteay Meanchey provincial court yesterday.

Armed military police lined a street packed with monks, students and villagers  as the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court yesterday began hearing the mountain of drug and corruption charges against former anti-drug czar Moek Dara and former Ministry of Interior anti-drug chief Chea Leng.

Deputy prosecutor It Sam Phors opened the Kingdom’s most high-profile drug case with evidence for two sets of charges relating to the alleged pocketing of six kilograms of heroin in 2007 during a drug bust at the Naga Casino Boat in Phnom Penh, the predecessor of NagaWorld Casino.

Chea Leng is accused of taking the heroin, US$4,000 in cash and a car during the raid.

Yesterday, he told the court he had never confiscated any of the drugs, while Moek Dara denied having any knowledge of the details of the drug bust.

“If I had wanted to take the drugs, I would not have reported the case to the prosecutor,” Chea Leng said.

But witness Ean Sophat, a Ministry of Interior Anti-Drug officer, testified he was part of the bust, posing as a drug smuggler.

“I know about six kilograms of heroin was confiscated because I did it by my own hand,” Ean Sophat said.

Moek Dara said he had ordered the Naga Boat raid by telephone and did not know how much heroin was at the scene or confiscated.

In total, about 50 anti-drug police travelled from Phnom Penh to Banteay Meanchey to appear as witnesses.

Key witnesses include former Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean and his former deputy Chheang Son, both of whom were sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday for soliciting bribes from drug traffickers.

After being arrested and questioned in January, Hun Hean first implicated Moek Dara as an orchestrator of a large drug racket in the Kingdom.

Shortly after Moek Dara was charged in January, Om Yintieng, head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, alleged he had been using the National Authority for Combating Drugs as a pawn in a large network of selling drugs.

Earlier this week, Om Yentieng said if Moek Dara was found guilty of even one of the 38 charges stacked against him he would face a lifetime in prison.

However, villagers gathered to observe the trial yesterday were not as optimistic.

Heng Lyly said, “I have never seen military deployed on the street like this,” adding that it was the ordinary people who were the victims of the corruption committed by such high-ranking officials.

Deputy prosecutor It Sam Phors said the trial would conclude by January 20, 2012.

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