Former anti-drug czar Moek Dara (C) leaves the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh yesterday following a hearing. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
An empire of bribery and kickbacks built by former anti-drugs czar Moek Dara was dissected by the Court of Appeal yesterday as it continued hearing the appeal of Dara and Chea Leng against their convictions in 25 cases of corruption.
Presiding judge Chay Chandaravann opened the appeal hearing with discussion of a US$20,000 bribe paid by notorious drug dealer Hak Eang to Dara in 2007 in return for Dara providing Eang with a form of asylum from arrest for his illegal activities by acting as an anti-drug spy answerable to Dara.
Eang, who is now serving an abridged jail sentence in Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison on drug offence charges, provided witness testimony to Anti-Corruption Unit officials about the bribe.
In return for providing the testimony, which was ultimately used to convict Dara, Eang received a shortened prison sentence.
“Besides receiving a bribe from Hak Eang, Moek Dara had also close links with the groups of criminals or drug traffickers in Cambodia. He had prevented them from being arrested by police in exchanging for bribes and his own interests,” the judge said.
In mid-2007, Dara pulled his police forces out of a scheduled raid of Eang’s residence in Phnom Penh, the judge continued, citing several instances of Dara concealing the very crimes he was supposed to fight.
“When [Dara’s] anti-drug police forces were surrounding and ready to crack down and arrest the drug dealers’ group, Moek Dara ordered them to stop their cracking down activities,” Chandaravann said, adding that “the drug dealers then successfully escaped”.
At times agitated, then stoic, Dara rebutted the validity of all the evidence stacked against him throughout the day.
“As a police official, I could not commit such things as the worst things I am accused of. I absolutely deny all these charges against me,” he said.
“I have never received any money from Hak Eang. I think that this accusation is aimed to dishonour and defame my reputation,” Dara said, pointing out that while he was slapped with a life sentence, Eang received just two years despite his egregious criminal career.
Dara said he had called police off certain planned raids because these deals involved small fish and he wanted to investigate more to find the head honchos.
He later pinned blame on deceased former director of the national police commission Hok Lundi, who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2009.
“The reason why I had telephoned to my police subordinates to get the name and phone numbers of the drug dealers at [a bust planned for] Poching Tong Airport was because I was asked to know this information by General Hok Lundi. And so I did alert or call to the drug dealer as accused,” he said.
Dara and Chea Leang’s appeal hearing will continue today.
To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at [email protected]