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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MP planned kidnapping to recoup casino loss, says boss

MP planned kidnapping to recoup casino loss, says boss

A military police commander arrested for kidnapping a Naga casino executive last

month took part in the crime after betting - and losing heavily - at the casino,

according to his superior.

Major Van Veourn, military police chief of the

southern Phnom Penh district of Meanchey, was among seven men charged with the

abduction. An eighth man, also a military officer, is being sought.

Among

those arrested was the Khmer bodyguard of the casino's Malaysian chief operating

officer, Lim Kim Hock, who was kidnapped.

Lieutenant Colonel An Sokhon,

chief of the second bureau of Phnom Penh's military police headquarters, told

the Post that Veourn had frequently gambled at the casino.

After losing

much money, Veourn sold his Toyota Camry car to fund his betting, according to

Sokhon.

However, he continued to lose money. He became friends with Seng

Sambath, Lim Kim Hock's bodyguard, and they discussed the prospect of abducting

the Malaysian for ransom.

Khmers are supposedly barred from gambling at

the Naga casino, unless they are also citizens of another country.

Hock

was kidnapped after his car was stopped on Sihanouk Blvd by a gang of armed men

while on his way about 3am on Aug 16.

According to Sokhon, a "secret

military police agent" later reported Veourn was involved in the

crime.

On Aug 19, Veourn was "invited" to the Phnom Penh military police

headquarters and arrested.

"He gave us the whereabouts of the village [in

Kompong Speu] where the Naga official was being held," said Sokhon.

A

group of Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry, municipal police and military

police raided a building in the village and freed Lim.

Sokhon said of

Veourn: "He was a good MP...and it is the first time that he was involved in

crime.

"He helped us to arrest the other offenders, so I think that the

punishment on him should be thoroughly considered and reduced if

possible."

Brigadier General Mok Chito of the Phnom Penh police

identified the seven arrested as: Veourn, 30, Sambath, 28, Kim Sam Ath, 30,

Chhun Ty, 24, Thor Chamnan, 20, Sieng Nieng, 31, and Pen Thol, 52. The latter

five had also allegedly committed many robberies in Phnom Penh, he

said.

The seven, being held in T3 prison, have been charged with

"terrorism" and firearms offenses under articles 2 and 4 of the State of

Cambodia criminal law. If convicted, they face 10-15 years in prison.

An

Interior Ministry official told the Post an arrest warrant had been issued for

an eighth man, described as a senior military officer, alleged to have helped

plan the kidnapping.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense and the Phnom

Penh municipality police continue to haggle over the release of two soldiers

arrested at the Naga the day before the kidnapping.

The two - Keo Chantha

and Brak Mao - were among more than 100 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers

hired to guard the outside of the casino.

The Post reported in its last

issue that the two were detained by military police after a clash between the

RCAF guards and municipality police officers. Police captain Nib Vibo alleged he

was beaten unconscious, and his deputy shot in the leg, by the guards.

An

Sokhon - whose military police officers are holding the two soldiers - said a

Ministry of Defense offer of $600 compensation for the two injured policemen was

rejected by the police, who wanted $5000.

The military police would

release the two soldiers "as long as the two sides, the soldiers and the police,

agreed with each other to accept a final solution."

Nib Vibo, meanwhile,

warned he would seek revenge if he did not receive adequate

compensation.

"If the problem is not solved, I will solve it myself... I

am a police officer and my reputation was damaged, so this problem must be

solved properly."

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