Prison Meth Syndicate Members Charged Over 13Kg Bust

Five inmates believed to be operating a major drug distribution ring from behind the walls of Phnom Penh’s maximum-security Prey Sar prison were hit with fresh trafficking charges at the municipal court on Friday, just days after one of their alleged dealers was caught with 13 kg of methamphetamine, officials said.

The suspected dealer, Dy Thoura, 32, who was arrested by military police near the base of the Chroy Changva bridges on Monday, was also charged on Friday.

Military police escort drug-trafficking suspect 'Baja' out of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Military police escort drug-trafficking suspect ‘Baja’ out of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“This is the biggest case of the year,” said Pann Sopheap, chief of the municipal military police’s anti-drug bureau. “The drug total was about 13 kg of crystal methamphetamine and methamphetamine pills.”

Mr. Sopheap’s deputy, Tieng Karona, identified the inmates at the center of the case as Cambodians Sin Ratha and Suon Sao, Vietnamese national Yaing Leang and Nigerians Samuel Amechi Okeke and “Baja,” explaining that he knew the last man only by his nickname.

Tep Panha, a lawyer for Mr. Leang, said Investigating Judge Khy Chhai charged all six suspects yesterday afternoon.

“All of them were charged with drug trafficking,” he said. “My client was sent [back] to Prey Sar, but I don’t know about the other suspects.”

On Thursday, National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said the five prisoners had been under investigation for a month, and that they had instructed Mr. Thoura, by telephone, to distribute the meth to buyers in the capital. “We will investigate and find more people involved,” he said at the time.

Mr. Okeke, 34, stood trial earlier this month alongside his Vietnamese wife, accused of attempting to smuggle 1.5 kg of heroin to Australia in the straps and lining of backpacks.

While his wife, Ho Thi Nhu Thuy, 26, admitted to mailing the backpacks overseas at the request of a friend named Sunny, but said she did not know they contained drugs. Mr. Okeke said he knew nothing about the backpacks or his wife’s relationship with Sunny.

A verdict in the case was due on Thursday, but the presiding judge delayed the hearing because he was busy grading exams for prospective judges, according to deputy prosecutor Soeur Vanny.

Yoeun Thanrath, chief of administration at PJ Prison, a minimum-security facility, said he took custody of the Cambodian suspects yesterday evening.

“We received the three Cambodian men at 5:30 p.m.,” he said, declining to explain why Mr. Ratha and Mr. Sao were not sent back to Prey Sar.

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