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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Interpol denies Heng Pov return bought

Interpol denies Heng Pov return bought

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Former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov is escorted to Prey Sar prison by police officials after being deported to Cambodia from Malaysia on December 21.

A

llegations of collusion between Malaysian officials and the Cambodian government

over the December 21 deportation of disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng

Pov are false, a Cambodian Interpol official said on December 28.

"It is not true to allege that the Cambodian government paid millions of dollars

to the Malaysian government to bring Heng Pov back to jail," said General Keo

Vannthan, first deputy director of Interpol. "We wouldn't even pay one dollar."

The French newspaper L'Express on December 27 published unconfirmed allegations that

"tens of millions of dollars" worth of bribes had passed from Cambodian

to Malaysian officials to secure the swift handover of Pov to Cambodian police.

"It is not true and it is ridiculous," said Khieu Sopheak, spokesman of

the Ministry of Interior. "The Cambodian government is poor, if we had ten million

dollars to spare we would spend it on building a school."

But the circumstances surrounding Pov's surprise deportation have raised suspicions

of foul play and have caused human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International

Malaysia, to denounce the violation of Pov's rights to asylum.

On December 21, before the Malaysian Federal High Court was able to make its final

ruling on Pov's fate, the Immigration Department handed Pov over to Cambodian police

who loaded him on to a private jet and flew him back to Cambodia.

Pov was accompanied home by his long-time foe Mok Chito, director of the penal department

of the Ministry of Interior, Vannthan and Mol Roep, intelligence chief of the Royal

Cambodian Armed Forces.

Pov's deportation was entirely in accord with Malaysian law, said Interpol's Vannthan.

"It was the enforcement of the verdict of the appeal court of Malaysia,"

he said. "The verdict gave the Malaysian Immigration police the authority to

oust Heng Pov from their country. Illegal immigrants would normally be sent back

to the last country they were in [which was Singapore] but Singapore didn't accept

him so they decided to send him back to his native country."

Pov was taken, with an extensive armed escort, from the airport to the Phnom Penh

municipal court where he was briefly questioned before being transferred to Prey

Sar prison to begin his 18-year sentence for the 2003 slaying of Phnom Penh municipal

judge Sok Sethamoni.

The level of security surrounding Pov's return was interpreted by L'Express as the

Cambodian regime seizing the opportunity to "provide a show of force."

Khieu Sopheak denied this was the case.

"There was a lot of security surrounding Heng Pov's return because we are afraid

he would be assassinated," he said. "Now in prison we have 24 policemen

guarding him because we are concerned he will commit suicide. We are very aware that

if he dies we will be criticized."

Finland, which had offered Pov a visa on humanitarian grounds, has called upon Phnom

Penh to ensure that Pov receives a fair trial for his alleged crimes.

The Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh said on December 28 that no one was available

to comment on the matter.

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