Tycoon Thong Sarath – accused of masterminding the murder of a rival businessman – was convicted of illegal weapons charges at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday along with his parents and a bodyguard who remains on the run.
Sarath, head of the Borey 999 development project and the prime suspect in the November shooting death of Shimmex Group chairman Ung Meng Cheu, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined 6 million riel ($1,500). His parents – Thong Chamroeun and Keo Sary – were each sentenced to two years and a 6 million riel fine.
Security guard Tan Sok received the same sentence as Sarath in absentia.
“The court sentenced Thong Sarath and Tan Sok to two years and six months each in prison . . . It has ordered the arrest of Tan Sok, so that he can be brought to serve the court’s verdict,” Phnom Penh Municipal judge Khy Chhae said yesterday. “The court sentenced Thong Chamroeun and Keo Sary to two years each.”
Late last year, authorities searching for Sarath turned up 15 weapons, including four AK-47s, in raids carried out on December 3 and December 21 at Sarath’s villa in Chamkarmon district and two villas in Meanchey district that belong to his parents.
Chamroeun and Sary were arrested on December 3. Sarath was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on the night of April 16 after spending several months in hiding.
According to Meas Vanna, an official at the Ministry of National Defence, where Sarath once worked, the tycoon and his parents were licensed to own a total of 11 guns. However, the prosecution said that when cross-checked with the licences at the ministry, only two of the recovered guns matched the paperwork.
The tycoon’s arrest followed those of several of his bodyguards in the immediate aftermath of Meng Cheu’s shooting death outside a fruit shop on Sihanouk Boulevard in the capital’s Chamkarmon district on November 22. Meng Cheu – who, like Sarath, holds the title of oknha – was shot six times. After reviewing security camera footage of the murder, police said that a gunman and accomplice carried out the shooting and escaped on a motorbike.
A trial date for Sarath’s outstanding murder charge has yet to be set.
Outside court yesterday, Sarath’s attorney Chhun Vinita vowed to appeal the illegal weapons conviction.
“To find truth and justice in this case, my client will bring this to the Appeal Court soon,” Vinita said.