Allegedly Corrupt Prosecutor’s Cases To Be Re-Examined

The entire caseload of the jailed Pursat prosecutor Tob Chan Sereivuth will be reviewed after he was charged this week with corruption for his alleged involvement in an extortion attempt in June, a court official said yesterday.

Deputy Pursat prosecutor You Yinny said yesterday he and a fellow prosecutor would re-examine more than 30 cases their former colleague had been processing at the time of his arrest.

Anticorruption Unit Chairman Om Yentieng said Wednesday that he expected many additional charges against Mr Chan Sereivuth.

Yesterday’s announcement came as four men, previously charged in a land dispute case investigated by Mr Chan Sereivuth when he was a judge in Banteay Meanchey province, said they were planning to sue him for damages.

Mr Yinny said Mr Chan Sereivuth’s cases would be examined to see if there were any “irregularities” in the prosecutor’s investigation of certain cases. He said that of the cases being re-examined, those Mr Chan Sereivuth failed to initiate investigations on were of particular interest.

“We are reviewing those cases…. Especially the 10…cases that this ex-prosecutor did not process,” Mr Yinny said, adding that most of the cases dealt with illegal logging offenses, forest crimes and murders.

“The purpose of looking into the nonprocessed cases is because there are some irregularities conducted by him in taking fines from suspected forest criminals. And then the court files were buried.”

Mr Chan Sereivuth, his brother-in-law Ros Samnang, and his bodyguard, Chhit Vuthy, were charged Tuesday with corruption, extortion and illegal detention after allegedly extorting money from men carrying timber in their truck in June. A fourth suspect, Pich Kong Yu, is still at large.

Officials from the human rights group Adhoc said yesterday they expected many more complainants to come forward now that Mr Chan Sereivuth and his associates have been detained.

“I have gotten a lot of phone calls from villagers in Banteay Meanchey province who almost all claim that they are ready to sue this ex-prosecutor for his…misconduct in extorting money and illegally detaining” people, said Soum Chankea, Adhoc’s provincial coordinator in Banteay Meanchey.

Four men from Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrou district, the location of a ten-year-long land dispute between 170 families and the National Development Agricultural Association, said yesterday that they planned to sue Mr Chan Sereivuth over his dealings with their case.

The NDAA said in early 2009 that Mr Chan Sereivuth would be awarded 2 hectares of land after the land dispute case was finalized.

But despite Mr Chan Sereivuth’s efforts to continue investigating the case in his new post as Pursat provincial prosecutor, the court sent the case back to Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court in February 2009 after declining to accept jurisdiction.

After spending six months in Pursat Provincial Prison, the four men were granted bail when the case was returned to Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court. Yesterday, they said they wanted justice.

Chea Sitha, 55, claimed that he was only ever imprisoned because he could not afford to pay a bribe to Mr Chan Sereivuth.

“I will be coming to Phnom Penh to lodge our complaint with the Anticorruption Unit to seek justice and compensation, because I and three other men were charged and detained in prison when we were innocent,” Mr Sitha said.

Another O’Chrou district villager involved in the land dispute, Nov Phalla, said yesterday that he had been forced into hiding since 2008, when Mr Chan Sereivuth issued a warrant for his arrest. Mr Phalla said he too would lodge a complaint with the ACU.

Mr Om Yentieng, the ACU chairman, could not be reached yesterday. But Keo Remy, spokesman for the National Council for Anticorruption, said the villagers from O’Chrou district were welcome to file their complaints.

“We are the institution to accept all complaints,” he said, adding, however, that any decisions on compensation would ultimately be decided by the judiciary and not the ACU.

 

 

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