Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) chief Om Yentieng on Wednesday denied that ousted Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Ang Mealaktei had been arrested following two days of questioning over serious graft claims, despite two well-placed officials indicating otherwise.
Mr. Mealaktei was removed in February, just hours after Prime Minister Hun Sen made a speech suggesting that the court accepted a multimillion-dollar bribe to release from prison the parents of fugitive general Thong Sarath, who is charged with orchestrating the November murder of businessman Ung Meng Chue.
Mr. Yentieng said Wednesday that Mr. Mealaktei was questioned at the ACU headquarters on Tuesday and Wednesday—after the Justice Ministry completed its investigation into him Monday—but had not been arrested.
“The ACU summoned Ang Mealaktei for questioning yesterday and today but the ACU now understands that two days of questioning and explaining are not enough,” Mr. Yentieng said via text message. “The ACU needs to meet and listen to the explanations of Mr. Ang Mealaktei many more times.”
Asked if Mr. Mealaktei had been arrested, Mr. Yentieng answered: “Not true.”
Earlier in the day, a senior official at the ACU, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, said that Mr. Yentieng and his assistant, Heng Sokheang, had been friendly with Mr. Mealaktei over the past two days, questioning him in the mornings before sitting down together for lunch.
“Mr. Ang Mealaktei was summoned for questioning yesterday and also today, but he was not detained,” the source said. “Mr. Ang Mealaktei returned home after eating lunch with the two officials.”
Later in the day, however, the ACU official said that Mr. Mealaktei had in fact not returned home Wednesday, but had remained at the ACU headquarters and would be sent to court in the afternoon.
“I have received information that two court officials are preparing to receive Mr. Mealaktei,” the source said. “But I do not understand how the ACU could send Mr. Mealaktei to court because he is close friends with my boss [Mr. Yentieng].”
Brigadier General Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, also said Wednesday afternoon that he had received word of Mr. Mealaktei’s arrest.
“I have received information that the Anti-Corruption Unit arrested Mr. Ang Mealaktei, but I cannot give comment about the arrest because they are working on this case,” he said.
However, minutes later, Brig. Gen. Tito called back and said: “I request that you remove my quote because it would kill me.”
Asked about the validity of the quote in question, he said: “It is not true.”
Contacted last night, Meas Chanpiseth, a deputy prosecutor at the municipal court, said that his former boss had not been brought to the court Wednesday.
“Today, there was no questioning, and there is no need to question him,” he said, before hanging up on a reporter.
Last night, however, BTV—-a television station controlled by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter Hun Mana—posted a news report to its Facebook page stating that Mr. Mealaktei would be questioned at the court today.
The report says the former court director was being questioned by the ACU over the release of Maj. Gen. Sarath’s parents and also of Thav Thavy, a suspected drug dealer who was released on bail by the court and whose confiscated SUV was allegedly gifted to Mr. Mealaktei’s son.
“According to BTV reporters, the questioning of [Mr. Mealaktei] was stopped today and will continue tomorrow, when he will be sent to the court for further questioning,” the report says.
(Additional reporting by Sek Odom and Ben Sokhean)