Confronted with what prosecutors claimed was a notebook listing the names of drugs, drug buyers and prices, an accused in a $3 million drug case has claimed they were actually shorthand “cooking ingredients”.
Cambodian Liv Seu, 42, and Chinese nationals Ly Yon aka Che, 43, and Toeng Yangphing, 53, appeared yesterday in Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged with drug production, processing and possession charges.
The alleged ringleader, Dam Nha, is being tried in absentia after evading arrest.
A senior police officer alleged the group was the “biggest” cartel in Cambodia at the time of their arrest in June 2015, after they allegedly smuggled nearly 55 kilograms of methamphetamine and heroin from Laos into Cambodia.
Seu’s wife Phal Rany, also known as KK, is also on trial, charged with joining a cartel.
Seu, who was jailed in Stung Treng prison for drug trafficking and weapons charges at the time of his co-defendants’ arrests, told the court he was a rice merchant in Phnom Penh’s Deum Thkov market.
However, he was challenged with several pieces of evidence, including notebooks appearing to list the names of drug buyers, prices and types.
When quizzed by judge Than Leng on an entry that stated “pile cost $14,500” – which it noted had been “paid” – Seu said it was shorthand for “cooking ingredients”.
The judge also noted the couple had two bank accounts, which showed 11 deposits and withdrawals totalling some $260,000.
The court heard Seu had changed his place of business from Deum Thkov market to a house in Russey Keo district, alleged to have been a drug production facility, and had also rented two apartments for his Chinese co-defendants, which Seu claimed were for his Taiwanese friends to “come in winter”.
Deputy director of the anti-drug department San Sothy testified that Seu, after being locked up in Stung Treng, rang his wife and told her to rent a building in Phnom Penh referred to as C19 - where the haul was later found by police.
According to an informant in Stung Treng prison, who overheard the call, Seu told Rany to move her possessions to the house to make it appear less suspicious.
Though she initially cooperated with police, Rany yesterday denied knowing what her co-defendants did, prompting judge Pich Vicheathor to accuse her of changing her story.
Rany said she told police Seu was a drug dealer because her husband had another mistress.
“I just said that because he had another woman. I was angry,” Rany said.
The trial will resume July 25.