The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that it would not unfreeze the assets of Heng Chheang and Tep Kolap, despite the fact that one has been exonerated in the long-running embezzlement case brought by tycoon Kok An, and a reinvestigation was ordered in the case of the other.
Kolap and Chheang were accused of embezzling more than $58 million from An’s business, but the Supreme Court ruled last September that an audit implicating the two had been incomplete, and ordered Kolap to be released and the case against Chheang to be retried after a new audit.
Chheang and Kolap had asked from the outset that their assets be unfrozen, but presiding Judge Chay Chadaravann ruled in favour of prosecutors who argued that since the proceedings against Chheang were ongoing, the assets should remain frozen.
Lawyers for Chheang and Kolap, Eav Poly and Pin Vannak, had unsuccessfully argued that since there was no civil component to the case, the assets – which included cash, shares in Phnom Penh International University and land in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap – should be released.
“Even though the court found out some money was missing, [Kok An lawyer] Long Dara said in this case from the beginning that Kok An never filed a civil complaint. He filed a criminal case [for] fraud [and] breach of trust,” Poly said.