Heng Chheang (R) is escorted by a police officer as he exits the Appeal Court Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled to allow Heng Chheang to choose a new independent auditor to reinvestigate allegedly illegal financial transactions he made while general director of Senator Kok An’s Anco Brothers Co.
The development is the latest step in Chheang’s highly publicised appeals process, during which it was revealed that the audit forming the basis of his conviction on charges of embezzling more than $58 million had been incomplete – a revelation that prompted the October release of Chheang’s wife, Tep Kolap, who was also convicted on the same charges.
“The main purpose of the hearing [yesterday] was to debate about the choosing of a new independent auditor for re-auditing the financial transactions of Oknha Kok An’s companies for Mr Heng Chheang,” said presiding judge Chay Chandaravann in an interview after the hearing.
“We wanted Mr Heng Chheang to choose the new independent auditor by himself.
“We also wanted to have agreement between the two parties in choosing a new independent auditor in re-auditing in this case.”
According to Chandaravann, that agreement was reached, and a new trial will go forward once the reinvestigation is completed.
Chheang’s defence attorney, Orn Hing, said that he was pleased with the court’s decision.
“Now we have not chosen a new independent auditor yet, but [the two parties] have decided that we will give the right to Heng Chheang to choose the new independent auditor by himself,” he said.
“According to the evidence, my client committed no offence in this case, and there was no money lost by Oknha Kok An’s companies,” he added.
This was an reiteration of the the defence’s long-held position – which they now say will be vindicated by the new audit.
Chheang, who was allowed to wear street clothes to yesterday’s hearing rather than a blue prison uniform, declined to comment on the proceedings.
Long Dara, a lawyer for Kok An, said after the hearing that his party accepted the court’s decision, and that his client simply wanted justice to be done.
“We are willing to resolve and put an end to this story, but we want each party to accept the truth in this case,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at [email protected]