Chea Leng (R), an accomplice of former anti-drug czar Moek Dara, leaves the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
Charges relating to corrupt anti-drug operations dominated the second day of appeal hearings for former anti-drug czar Moek Dara and anti-drug chief Chea Leng yesterday.
One of the many convictions Leng is appealing is for using an undercover agent to sell heroin confiscated from a Naga casino boat raid to drug dealers and pocket the proceeds of the sale himself in 2007.
“Chea Leng had asked his subordinate [. . .] to take two packages of heroin hidden in the drawer of his office table and sell it to drug dealers at Phnom Penh’s Sydney Hotel,” presiding judge Chay Chandaravann summarised from trial hearing documents.
“But the deal was raided, and when the drug dealers were arrested by another unit of the anti-drug police department in Ministry of Interior, [Leng] ordered [the undercover agent] to go into hiding,” he said.
The three arrested drug dealers confessed that Leng via an undercover agent had sold them the heroin but that Dara, allegedly to protect the identity of the undercover agent, doctored the dealers’ confessions.
“He corrected the dealers’ phrases to say the drugs were bought from a Tela gas station near the National Police Commissioner,” the judge said.
Both Leng and Dara have pleaded innocent.
“I recommended my police officers correct the drug dealers’ answers because I wanted to maintain the reputation of my anti-drug department . . . I was afraid this was a trick of drug criminals to put blame on us in order to dishonour us,” Dara told the court.
Chandaravann announced yesterday that the appeal, originally slated to take all week, would likely take longer.
“This will be the longest case in the history of Cambodian courts,” he said, adding the case would be dwarfed only perhaps by Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
“I want the suspects to say as much as they can to plead their case so the court can find justice for them,” the judge said.
Unexplained Anti-Corruption Unit cameras again filmed the day’s proceedings. ACU officials did not respond to questions about the cameras.
The court began questioning Dara on the fourth case against him involving accepting a US$20,000 bribe. That questioning continues today.
To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at firstname.lastname@example.org