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Jailing is unjust, says charged tax collector

Jailing is unjust, says charged tax collector

Recently jailed businesswoman Roth Sopheap made a last-ditch effort yesterday to cut a deal keeping her out of prison but was rebuffed by a court official and the plaintiff who filed the case against her, a relative said yesterday.

A clerk at Phnom Penh Municipal Court who asked not to be named said Sopheap’s charge of breach of trust still stands and that the investigating judge in her trial ordered her continued detention after she “failed in her negotiations with the plaintiff”.

Sopheap holds the municipal contract on collecting parking and stall fees from markets across the capital. According to Municipal Penal Police Unit officer Seng Darith, plaintiff Ham Many had sought to buy the licence for Daun Penh district from her.

After allegedly giving her $190,000 in 2009, Many never received the licence and ultimately filed a complaint to get his money back, Darith said. In questioning, he added, Sopheap acknowledged receiving $140,000 from Many.

However, according to a relative of the defendant who asked not to be named, Sopheap proposed a three-part repayment plan yesterday: first, that she turn over the rights to collecting fees at Central Market immediately; second, that she immediately pay $20,000 to the plaintiff; and third, that she pay off the debt by August 30.

But the deal wasn’t accepted, said the relative, who added that Sopheap was also a “victim”.

“The reason she could not return the money to the plaintiff was because the prime minister has ordered to close her company since 2010, and the municipal hall also did not officially issue the [official ledgers] for her company,” he said. “From 2010 until now, Mrs Sopheap’s company did not make any profits.”

Sopheap herself said she had been treated unfairly, telling reporters she had paid a $150,000 bribe to former Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema for the licence in 2010 but still hadn’t received it.

“This was very unjust,” she shouted as she was pushed into a police car.

Neither Many, his lawyers nor municipal spokesman Long Dimanche could be reached for comment.

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