A clerk at the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of corruption and bribe-taking, police and Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) officials said, but rights groups said clerks alone are not in a position to determine the course of court cases and that more needs to be done to investigate corruption at higher levels in the judiciary.
Provincial deputy police chief Chan Kosal said the ACU worked with local police to apprehend Suong Sok Heng, 20, the personal clerk of provincial court prosecutor Phan Vanroath.
“Mr. Sok Heng was arrested on Tuesday at about 11 a.m. and then the ACU sent him to Phnom Penh [Wednesday] for questioning,” Mr. Kosal said.
The deputy police chief declined to comment on the specific allegations against Mr. Sok Heng, but said that the suspect had been accused of taking bribes from people alleged to have been smuggling illegally logged rosewood.
“Many people complained about him that he released offenders after taking bribes,” he said.
An ACU official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that Mr. Sok Heng was being detained in Phnom Penh and would be sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning this morning.
Neither Mr. Vanroath nor Provincial Court president Ang Mealatey could be reached for comment.
Chan Soveth, deputy head of the monitoring section at rights group Adhoc, said that more needed to be done to fight corruption among high-ranking members of the government and judiciary.
“We welcome the arrest of the Provincial Court clerk, but I wish to appeal to the government to take more actions because many officials have committed corruption,” he said.
“Mr. Sok Heng could not have dropped those cases unless he received permission from the judge or prosecutor,” he added.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said that court clerks are often just the entry point for judicial corruption.
“I don’t think the clerks alone would be able to make a deal or decision on a case,” he said. “So I would encourage the ACU and the relevant authorities to investigate further, using the clerk as a witness.”
In July, the Supreme Court refused bail to a Phnom Penh Municipal Court clerk convicted of breach of trust for taking $250,000 from a businessman who wanted his case dropped. The clerk claimed that most of the money had been given to the judge, Ke Sakorn, for whom he worked.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)
© 2013, All rights reserved.