The man charged with prosecuting former Phnom Penh Municipal Court president Ang Maltey yesterday spent the lion’s share of his speaking time lobbying the court to reduce the disgraced judge’s embezzlement charge to a lesser offence, citing his years of loyal service to Cambodia.
The request by Kandal provincial deputy prosecutor Ek Sun Reaskmey came during the first and only day of Maltey’s trial at Kandal Provincial Court, which is examining accusations he granted bail to police officer-turned-drug trafficker Thav Thavy in exchange for an Audi SUV, which he then allegedly gave to his son.
Sun Reaskmey argued that Maltey’s removal as municipal court judge was already a form of punishment and should be taken into account in asking presiding judge Nguon Vuthy to downgrade the disgraced official’s embezzlement charge to ones dealing with “unlawful exploitation”.
The move would halve his potential jail term from a maximum of 10 years to a maximum five-year term.
“I request the presiding judge to change the charge . . . because [Maltey] has already had an administrative punishment by being removed as the director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and he has served the nation for 32 years,” said Sun Reaskmey, who also noted the defendant’s ill-health.
“There is no document to show that he has intentionally destroyed or embezzled, or that shows the car belongs to him; the car still has the same white colour and is in same condition, there is no destruction.”
Dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, Maltey appeared calm as he was escorted into the court ahead of the three-hour session, during which reporters were prohibited from taking notes.
Though acknowledging some “wrongdoing”, he denied claims by anti-drug police, read to the court, that he bailed out Thavy and agreed to make him an undercover agent in exchange for keeping Thavy’s Audi, which was seized during a drug raid on the latter’s home.
Maltey said that, instead, it was anti-drug officers who proposed such a deal in order to secure the car for their unit. Initially detained and bailed in November 2014, Thavy was re-arrested in February last year, just days after Maltey was sacked from the city court’s top job.
Maltey’s dismissal came shortly after Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly suggested he took a hefty bribe to release on bail the parents of tycoon Tong Sarath, who is accused of plotting the murder of businessman Ung Meng Cheu. Sarath’s parents were later captured while attempting to flee to Vietnam.
While no bribery charges have yet materialised, Maltey is currently the subject of an Anti-Corruption Unit investigation over the matter.
In a statement read yesterday to the court, Thavy recalled giving his Audi to the ex-judge to secure his freedom.
However, Maltey testified that he asked the prosecutor and clerk handling Thavy’s case to use the Audi, because he needed to regularly switch cars for “protection”, saying the security situation at the court was tense.
“I was concerned about my safety,” he said, maintaining that only he drove the car.
He claimed that he tried to have the Audi registered officially as confiscated, which he argued would allow him to drive if for official business, but, after five days of driving the car, was told by police it could not be registered as it was not listed in the police report regarding the raid.
Maltey admitted he continued driving the SUV for two months, arguing he was “careless” for not following up to check whether court staff had finished registering the SUV, but blamed court officials and judicial police for blocking the process.
Contacted yesterday, deputy chief of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug police department Van Kosal had a different story. He claimed the car wasn’t included on the police report because it belonged to Thavy’s sister.
Kosal said his request that the SUV be returned to its rightful owner was rebuffed, adding Maltey “wanted the car”.
The court heard Maltey had used six confiscated cars in the past and told the investigating judge in Thavy’s case the Audi’s whereabouts was “not his business”.
A date for the verdict has not been set.