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Trial asks the $60k question

Trial asks the $60k question

The most serious so far of 38 charges brought in the high-profile trial against disgraced former anti-drug czar Moek Dara for drug-related corruption was heard at Banteay Meanchey court yesterday where it was alleged he accepted a $US60,000 bribe in 2009.  

In case 32 of the indictment against Moek Dara, the court heard allegations he took the bribe to release a drug trafficker after a March 2009 police raid on the Touk Meas restaurant in Poipet Town’s Poipet commune led to the confiscation of 3,688 pills and illegal property.

The court heard the raid was conducted by three former Banteay Meanchey police officials who have all since been convicted on related charges: former police chief Hun Hean, former deputy police chief Chheang Son and former anti-drug police officer Morn Doeun.

Nop Vireak, a monitor for the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights who is attending the trial, said deputy provincial prosecutor Phann Vanarath told Moek Dara that Morn Doeun had implicated him for taking the bribe in a written confession.

“In the hand letter, Morn Doeun said that Moek Dara ordered him to change the case and get a bribe for releasing suspect drug trafficker,” he said, adding that Moek Dara stuck to his usual defence of claiming to have committed no wrongdoing.

Phann Vanarath said yesterday that six charges brought against Moek Dara under the March 2010 anti-corruption law were dropped because the alleged crimes occurred in 2006 – before the legislation was adopted.

“I think that all 32 counts will be finished in December, and the verdict will be announced in January 2012,” he said.

The trial was proceeding hastily because the court had been in session from 8am to 6pm every working day since the trial began on November 17, he added.

Soum Chankea, Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the speed at which the case is being conducted is unprecedented.

He likened the court’s focus on Moek Dara – rather than the subordinates who were implicated – to the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s mandate of trying only the “most senior leaders” of the regime and “those most responsible” for its crimes.

“[In] this hearing, the court seems to know the result to sentence Moek Dara in advance already,” he said.  

Keo Remy, deputy spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit, reiterated the government’s previously stated position that Moek Dara could face life imprisonment if found guilty of just one or two of the charges against him.

Drug-related corruption charges are also being heard against former Ministry of Interior anti-drug chief Chea Leng in the same trial.