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Good news, bad news for ex-Chea Sim guard

The Supreme Court issued a mixed-bag verdict in the appeal case of former Chea Sim bodyguard Chhoeun Chanthan yesterday, upholding his 10-year sentence in a civilian court of forgery and illegal weapons possession, but ordering his 26-year sentence from a military court to be re-examined at the appellate level.

“He was accused of damaging military equipment by selling four military cars, dereliction of duty, selling weapons and issuing illegal weapons without authorisation from the Ministry of Defence. The accused used all kinds of tricks by selling materials and real estate without the approval from the ministry,” presiding judge Khim Bun said.

Chanthan’s initial 2012 conviction on charges relating to possessing a cache of illegal weapons and of forging and distributing weapons licences for those considered unqualified to hold them would stand, Bun said. In addition to his 10-year prison sentence on those charges, Chanthan had been fined $1,250.

However, Bun said, the facts in the military court case – in which Chanthan was sentenced to 26 years and fined more than $3 million for breach of trust, embezzlement of state property and illegally distributing weapons – were unclear, and the case would be returned to the Appeal Court for a new investigation and a retrial.

Puth Theavy, Chanthan’s lawyer, applauded the court’s decision to reinvestigate his client’s military charges, but said that its upholding of the civilian court’s sentence was unacceptable.

“For the verdict that the Supreme Court upheld, I will appeal to review the documents,” he said. “As for the verdict that was transferred to the Appeal Court, I will take legal action for my client to be acquitted. I understand that the military court action to sentence my client to 26 years was a serious decision.”

Chanthan was first arrested in 2011 at his home in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. During the arrest, police seized a dozen guns, including an AK-47 and two machine guns, as well as more than 1,400 rounds of ammunition.

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