The lawyer of former Cambodia Daily General Manager Douglas Steele has received an invitation to appear in court on May 9 for questioning in the now-shuttered paper’s tax evasion case.
The former manager of the Daily, which had to close when presented with a $6.3 million tax bill, was accused by the Tax Department in September of tax evasion and obstruction of tax collection, along with Deputy Publisher Deborah Krisher-Steele and the newspaper’s founder Bernard Krisher.
Tax evasion carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a maximum fine of $4,800, while obstruction of the implementation of taxes carries a fine of up to $2,400 and a one-year prison sentence.
Steele’s lawyer, Sek Sophorn, on Monday said he received an “invitation for questioning” by an investigating judge for May 9, but would request a delay sometime this week. “I’m busy on that day,” he said.
Steele, meanwhile, said he would stay in Cambodia, despite the potential prison sentence. “I won’t solve their problem for them by fleeing. I will not run away,” he said. “I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s something I can’t control.”
Krisher-Steele also faces defamation charges for alleging that a confidential tax document was leaked by the department to government-aligned media. Her case was delayed in mid-March due to procedural issues.
The closure of the Daily – which was among a number of independent outlets shuttered by the government – was met with broad international criticism, with observers arguing that the tax bill was a political move to stifle critical voices ahead of this year’s national elections.