A Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge has issued temporary detention warrants for former Ministry of Justice under-secretary of state Seng Sovannara and three accomplices. They were arrested by National Police on Friday.
The men are alleged to have encroached on 1,000ha of state land in Mondulkiri province.
Court prosecutor Kuch Kimlong identified Sovannara’s accomplices as Van Sothear, 36, Po Choy, 34 and Sin Po, 59. The three are farmers in Nang Khylek commune’s Koh Myeul Leu village in Mondulkiri province’s Koh Nhek district.
The arrests were made after the men were summoned to answer questions about involvement in the land encroachment.
“Following their questioning on June 27, court prosecutor Seng Heang charged Sovannara and each accomplice with four counts of fraud, encroaching on state property, threatening residents not to file a complaint and illegal possession of weapons.
“Heang issued temporary detention warrants for them to be held in prison, pending a hearing,” Kimlong said.
According to the four counts, Sovannara and his accomplices could be jailed at least five years if found to have committed the crimes as accused.
In aggravating fraud they can face a prison sentence of two to five years under Article 379 of the Criminal Code. The threat also carries a prison sentence of two to five years and a fine of four to 10 million riel ($988 to $2,471) under Article 607 of the Criminal Code.
Illegal possession of weapons carries a prison sentence of six months to three years and a fine of one to six million riel under Article 490 of the Criminal Code.
Encroaching on or affecting state property carries a prison sentence of two to five years and/or a fine of three to 30 million riel under Article of 262 of the Land Law.
It’s not the first time Sovannara has found himself in hot water over the 1,000ha. Interior Minister Sar Kheng removed him from office last year for the alleged crime.
And, King Norodom Sihamoni issued a royal decree ending his tenure as the under-secretary of state at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen.