The Appeal Court yesterday heard the case of three men given heavy prison sentences in 2012 for transporting medicine banned in the Kingdom because it contains pseudoephedrine – a substance used to make methamphetamines.
Teng Sophal, 36, who at the time was the director of Mega Dragon Logistics, was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Sophal’s translator Heng Chea also received a nine-year prison term, while his logistics officer, Chea Po Hok, was given five years.
Sophal and Chea were caught transporting seven million pills, weighing more than 2,500 kilograms, from the Sihanoukville port to Phnom Penh in 2010.
A fourth man, Bou Hael, 72, who is believed to have escaped to Thailand after the arrests, was sentenced in absentia, also to nine years.
In court yesterday, Sophal maintained his innocence, saying he believed the shipment was silica gel after agreeing to transport it for another local company.
“I was in possession of documents allowing me to collect the goods. I did not know what it was . . . later the authorities arrested me,” he said.
Suong Sopheak, a lawyer for the defendants, said his clients were not aware the shipment included medicine containing pseudoephedrine, and that those responsible for importing the goods – Hael and a man named Peter – “had escaped”.
“Therefore [I] ask you to drop the charges against my clients,” he said.
According to documents from his logistics company presented to the court, Sophal had received $10,000 from the two men in question to transport the shipment.
Seng Sivutha, presiding judge, said a licence had been obtained from the Ministry of Health to import various medicines. That licence, however, did not cover the medicine containing the pseudoephedrine.
The court prosecutor in the case called for the original verdict, handed down by Phnom Penh Municipal Court, to be upheld. A verdict in the case is due on August 13.