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Singaporean Chua Hwee Kiat (right), 50, appears at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.
Singaporean Chua Hwee Kiat (right), 50, appears at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Pha Lina

Failed gamblers tried for alleged trafficking

Three failed gamblers who stand accused of turning to a convicted drug trafficker for a quick buck after losing all their money were tried yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for allegedly attempting to smuggle heroin to Australia.

Chua Hwee Kiat, 50, a Singaporean national, reportedly told police he had tried to transport the more than 80 grams of heroin secreted in his anus, before taking the package out and hiding it in his trouser pocket.

Kiat was arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport on November 20, 2014. Two Cambodians, Tan Chikeng, 57, and Muth Bunnath, 50, were later detained in connection with the alleged smuggling attempt at separate addresses in Phnom Penh.

Judge Kor Vandy said the suspects had gambled away their money in casinos before getting the idea to try their hand at drug smuggling.

“They tried to hide the drugs in their anus, but unluckily for them they got caught,” he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Hun Rithy of the police’s Transnational Crime Investigation Unit said the suspects had joined a well-known drug ring led by imprisoned drug smuggler Sin Sophal.

Chikeng was arrested after dropping off Kiat at the airport, he added.

When police searched Chikeng’s home in Tuol Kork district, they allegedly uncovered another 250 grams of heroin.

Police asserted that Bunnath had hired Kiat, for a fee of $5,000, to traffic the drugs, and Chikeng, for $500, to act as a translator.The suspects yesterday pleaded guilty, saying they did not “own” the drugs in question, and requesting reduced sentences.

Bunnath told the court that Sophal had called her from prison and instructed her to receive the drugs from a contact who visited her home in May.

She added that she was to be paid an additional $2,000 in commission once the drugs arrived safely in Australia.

“I needed the money to pay for the fees of my son’s cancer treatment,” she told the court. “My son was staying in Calmette Hospital.”

She added that her son has since died.

Rithy, of the transnational crime unit, said Sophal was a known ringleader in the drug trade to Australia, having been convicted in 2010 to 27 years in prison for drug trafficking.

A verdict for Kiat, Chikeng and Bunnath is scheduled for January 21.

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