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Top bodyguard faces 25 years in jail

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Chhoeun Chanthan, former head bodyguard for Chea Sim, arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday.

Chhoeun Chanthan, Senate President Chea Sim’s former chief bodyguard, was charged with four criminal offences yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and then sent to detention at the military court for possible questioning on a different offence.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Sem Sakola questioned Chhoeun Chanthan for about four hours yesterday in relation to allegedly forged documents and the illegal possession of weapons.

Meas Chanpiseth, deputy prosecutor at the court, told journalists outside the courtroom that Chhoeun Chanthan had been charged with four criminal offences after two days of questioning: illegal possession of weapons, illegally issuing weapon licences, forging public documents and using forged public documents. If convicted on all four counts, Chhoeun Chanthan could face up to 25 years in prison and more than US$5,000 in fines.

Chhoeun Chanthan’s defence attorney Hol Sina declined to comment on the case yesterday.

Three-star general Yim Leang, who was named in a Royal decree as Chea Sim’s new bodyguard unit chief within hours of a military police raid on Chhoeun Chanthan’s Phnom Penh villa on Saturday, is a plaintiff in the case.

“Samdech Chea Sim decided to remove the position and rank of Mr Chhoeun Chanthan,” Yim Leang said yesterday. “This case is in the hands of the court, so let the court make its investigation.”

Yim Leang, whose father is Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Li, did not say yesterday whether Chea Sim himself had also signed onto a complaint against his former head bodyguard. Nach Try, a lawyer representing plaintiffs in the case, said yesterday that Chhoeun Chanthan had committed additional “military offences” and would be sent for investigation at the military court.

“Mr Chhoeun Chanthan was sent to jail at the military court, because the suspect was also involved in a lot of other military offences,” he said.

A source at the municipal court, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Chhoeun Chanthan would be questioned at the military court in relation to budget losses and missing vehicles belonging to the Ministry of Defence.

Military court president Ney Thol, who is also a sitting judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber, said that case was now in the hands of the military court prosecutor, but he did not know when questioning would commence.

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