Three alleged drug smugglers, including a member of the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit, pleaded their innocence at court yesterday after being accused of importing 1.5 kilograms of pseudoephedrine – a drug used in the production of methamphetamine.
Bodyguard Unit member Lieutenant Colonel Hay Chanphearith was arrested on December 17 last year while retrieving a FedEx envelope at the company’s depot in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, presiding Judge Ker Sakhorn told Phnom Penh Municipal court.
“Hay Chanphearith was arrested when he was getting a package of drugs from the [FedEx] company and entered his luxury car,” he said, adding the drugs had been sent from India.
His arrest, Ker Sakhorn said, lead police to intercept Vietnamese-Canadian Ly Vanlanh and his driver, Vietnamese national Mai Chunghiv, at a petrol station, where they had allegedly arranged to pick up the drugs from Hay Chanphearith.
A handgun, 16 bullets, four mobile phones, a Lexus 4-WD and a three-kilogramme envelope, about half of which was pseudoephedrine disguised within a masking powder, were seized, he added.
Chheang Chamnan, chief of the anti-drugs office at the Ministry of Interior, said Cambodian police had been tipped off by the United States drug enforcement agency in Bangkok about the alleged drug deal.
All three men now face charges of international drug trafficking yesterday. Hay Chanphearith was also charged with illegal possession of a weapon.
Hay Chanphearith acknowledged yesterday that he had gone to retrieve the FedEx envelope after receiving a phone call from Ly Vanlanh but said he had no idea drugs were hidden inside it.
“I am not a drug trafficker. I would like to ask the court to drop charges against me and release me,” he said.
Ly Vanlanh denied asking the lieutenant colonel to retrieve the envelope yesterday. Mai Chunghiv also denied the charges against him.
Ek Sareth, chief of the distribution at FedEx, said yesterday that Hay Chanphearith had retrieved the envelope which was labelled “GIFT” and addressed to a different person.
A verdict will be announced on July 20, Ker Sakhorn said. Officials from the Canadian and Vietnamese embassies and the US DEA declined to comment yesterday.