The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the attempted murder conviction against the wife of tycoon Khaou Chuly in what is likely the final decision in the high-profile legal battle.
Khaou Seng Chanda, 50, was arrested in July 2010 for allegedly organizing an assassination attempt on her own stepdaughter, Sun Sotha, and Ms. Sotha’s 9-year-old daughter. Ms. Sotha, the daughter of Mr. Chuly, is also the wife of Sun Chanthol, vice chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, who has stood in for her throughout the nearly two years of legal proceedings.
In February 2011, Ms. Seng Chanda was convicted of conspiring with Chan Sokha, one of her maids at the time, to hire Neang Sinat, a maid who worked for Mr. Chanthol, to ensure access to he and Ms. Sotha’s Phnom Penh villa on the night of the planned murders in June 2010. A fourth defendant, Sok Lak, was found guilty of plotting to break into the house and follow through with the murder of Ms. Sotha and her daughter.
Reading the verdict yesterday, presiding Judge Khim Pon said that the 20-year prison sentence given to Ms. Seng Chanda, along with those of her three alleged accomplices, who each received 18- to 20-year sentences, would be upheld.
Having already spent two years in detention, Ms. Seng Chanda, if she serves the full sentence, will be released from Prey Sar prison in 2030.
“They accused me of wanting to kill Sun Sotha because I am afraid that Sun Sotha will inherit my husband’s property,” said Ms. Seng Chanda, dressed in a blue prison uniform, seated with Mr. Chuly outside the courtroom. “But it is wrong because my husband has 12 children. If I kill one, there are still 11 remaining. So must I kill them all?”
On the night of the attempted murder, none of the suspects were seen at Mr. Chanthol’s villa, and no harm ever came to his wife or daughter. The central evidence implicating Ms. Seng Chanda was testimony by the two maids, Ms. Sokha and Ms. Sinat, who pled innocent in the initial municipal court trial but later confessed to their role in the foiled assassination plot during hearings at the Court of Appeal.
During the Supreme Court hearings last month, Ms. Seng Chanda and her lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court judges to dismiss the contradictory testimony given by her alleged accomplices and accusers.
Ms. Seng Chanda and Mr. Chuly have repeatedly claimed that it was Mr. Chanthol in fact who invented the murder plot to position his family to inherit a greater share of the elderly Mr. Chuly’s fortune.
During an impromptu 10-minute speech delivered outside the courtroom, Mr. Chanthol, dressed in a dark pinstripe suit and a pink tie, said that the decision would restore the reputation of his family.
“Please let me say that Sun Chanthol and Sun Chanthol’s family do not want one cent from Okhna Khaou Chuly,” said Mr. Chanthol.
“This shows that money can’t buy justice. It is only the law that delivers justice to the victims,” he added.
“I think [Mr. Chanthol] is happy,” Ms. Seng Chanda told reporters shortly after Mr. Chanthol wrapped up his speech and left the court. “However, to me, he is a senior minister and if he took the time to serve the people and his nation, he could not destroy his wife’s family.”
“I have no reason to kill another human,” she added. “I don’t know who the court is serving. It did not serve the people and did not find justice for the people.”
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)