Twelve officials are accused of taking bribes and illegally granting loggers access to a wildlife sanctuary in November 2006.
PHNOM Penh Municipal Court brought charges of bribery and destroying natural resources against 12 officials from provincial forestry and environmental offices at a hearing on Saturday.
The officials, from Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces, were charged along with three smugglers in connection with an incident from November 2006. Forestry officials were accused in that incident of accepting bribes from smugglers who illegally logged in Preah Vihear's Boeung Per wildlife sanctuary, Phnom Penh deputy prosecutor Kry Sok Y said Sunday.
The officials are being charged under articles 97 and 98 of the Forestry Law and Article 22 of the Environmental Law.
Chan Madina, the judge presiding over the case, told the Post Sunday that she needed to "take time to consider the case", and was unwilling to offer a timetable for the verdict, which Kry Sok Y said would happen around the end of next month. If found guilty, the defendants could face up to 15 years in prison under the two charges.
Only six of the 12 officials facing charges were present at the hearing, with four rumoured to be in hiding, Kry Sok Y said. The six men present, none of whom are facing pre-trial detention, uniformly denied the allegations against them.
In November 2006, officials from the Ministry of Environment and the Forestry Administration filed a complaint against the provincial officials, accusing them of conspiring to grant access to smugglers in the preservation area. A raid on the smugglers at Boeung Per wildlife sanctuary netted a truck and logging equipment, though none of the officials involved were arrested at that time.