The former treasurer of Anco Brothers who, along with his wife, was jailed in December for four and a half years for breach of trust, said people would be “shocked” when he testified in the Appeal Court about financial transactions at the company owned by the wife of a tycoon senator.
A relative tends to Tep Kolap (right) while she receives treatment at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh earlier this month.
In a recent interview, Heng Chheang told the Post it was impossible for him to have siphoned more than US$58 million from the company over a 10-year period because its total income was less than he was accused of stealing.
“I was never in a decision-making role for expenditures. I was more like a cashier with signing authority, and there were levels of monitoring above me,” he said.
“At the Appeal Court, I will explain in detail about the accounting system used at Anco. Someone did approve all the transactions, and I will say who did in court.”
Anco Brothers, owned by Sok Im, the wife of Senator Kok An, is part of the senator’s Anco Group. It distributes British American Tobacco products, Evian water and Budweiser beer in Cambodia.
The firm used a joint account in the names of Sok Im and Heng Chheang, her cousin, at the Union Commercial Bank.
Heng Chheang and his wife Tep Kolap were arrested and detained last June and convicted on December 7.
Neither attended their trial the day before, which proceeded despite their request for a delay. Defence lawyers provided the Post with medical records showing both their clients were in hospital during the hearing.
They will provide the Appeal Court with banking records – copies of which they supp-lied to the Post – showing that slightly more than $4.5 million was transferred from the UCB account of Heng Chheang and Tep Kolap to three accounts at separate banks in Singapore registered in Sok Im’s name.
Heng Chheang insisted his wife’s signature was on only a handful of the thousands of transactions that went through their UCB account, and she was unaware of the rest.
He also reiterated his claim, made in a letter to Senate President Chea Sim last month, that the case was an attempt to grab the assets of her family, including Phnom Penh International University.
Their assets have been seized by the court as Kok An attempts to recoup the roughly $58 million he accused them of stealing, as well as $5 million in compensation.
The dispute began in 2010 with allegations that Heng Chheang had embezzled $630,000 from Anco Brothers. This amount rose to about $34 million after an internal audit, then to more than $58 million following an audit by Key Kak, a court-appointed auditor.
Both auditors focused on transfers from the Heng Chheang-Sok Im account to the Heng Chheang-Tep Kolap account. Key Kak said the defence had refused to co-operate with him, leaving him unable to determine what had happened to the money after it was transferred.
Heng Chheang has said that more money was transferred from the account he shared with his wife to the one he shared with Sok Im than was transferred in the other direction. He declined, however, to explain why funds were being shifted between the accounts, saying he would do so only if the court asked him to.
Long Dara, a lawyer for Kok An, said he would ask the Appeal Court to impose longer prison sentences on Tep Kolap and Heng Chheang, and for them to pay more compensation.
He also said it was up to the court, not the media, to investigate the company’s finances.
Kok An could not be reached for comment, but he has previously described Heng Chheang as “the person he trusted most” in the company, and accused him of having “transferred piles of money” from Anco Brothers to his and his wife’s account.