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Military Police chief grilled over Mondulkiri logging

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Officials seize and inspect illegally logged timber during a bust in February in Mondulkiri province. Photo supplied

Military Police chief grilled over Mondulkiri logging

Kampong Chhnang Provincial Military Police Commander Sak Sarang was questioned yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in relation to allegedly taking bribes from illegal loggers in Mondulkiri, where he was previously stationed.

A rare high-level probe revealed in February Sarang and other prominent Mondulkiri provincial officials were allegedly paid off by Vietnamese timber trader Ouk Nhor to the tune of $170,000 in total.

Seven Vietnamese nationals accused of illegal logging in the same investigation were tried last month with a verdict expected next week.

Sarang was summonsed at 8am yesterday by Deputy Prosecutor Nhin Pich. Pich said he has questioned three or four officials so far, but said no charges would be lodged until all the suspects had been interrogated.

“We need time for the interrogation. [We] cannot take action immediately. We cannot question one and charge one; we have to interrogate all the involved people first, and then we decide whether to make the charge or not,” he said.

The National Police report, sent to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, alleges that Sarang received $10,000 of the total bribe money.

Sarang, however, denied yesterday that he had appeared in court at all, and claimed the situation had already been resolved. “Why would I need to go to the court, because the [anti-logging task force] has already settled the issue?” he asked.

After the alleged bribes were revealed, Sarang was transferred to Kampong Chhnang, maintaining the same rank of provincial commander. A September letter signed by General Pol Saroeun suggested further punishment would not be forthcoming.

Ly Sophana, spokesman for prosecutor, declined to comment on the issue.

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