The Court of Appeal on Friday upheld the life sentences originally handed down to former anti-drug police chief Moek Dara and his co-defendant Chea Leng.
The Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court sentenced the two men to life in prison last year over 25 counts of drug trafficking and corruption.
“The court has decided to uphold the life sentences of Moek Dara and Chea Leng because they still denied any wrongdoing and they did not cooperate with the court,” presiding Judge Chay Chandaravan said on handing down the ruling.
A third defendant, Morn Doeun, who confessed to the charges during questioning then fled before being charged in absentia in 2012 —and who remains at large —had his 25-year jail sentence reduced by five years yesterday.
“We reduce Morn Doeun’s sentence because he confessed and has cooperated with the court,” Judge Chandaravan said.
The verdict was read over about four hours, and was filmed by two cameramen from the Anti-Corruption Unit—which was instrumental in bringing the corruption charges against the defendants.
“There is no exculpatory evidence to exonerate these three men, no evidence to show they did not commit the crime,” Judge Chandaravan said.
“The court has enough evidence to show that Moek Dara, Chea Leng, and Morn Doeun were the lead criminal perpetrators who committed these crimes,” he continued.
Mr. Dara and Mr. Leng were both present to hear the reading of the verdict, sporting civilian clothes rather than the usual prison garb. Despite being surrounded by a throng of reporters following the verdict, the two men declined to comment on the result of their appeal.
May Vannady, Mr. Dara’s lawyer, said the court’s verdict was unjust, as it had not taken into consideration all of the evidence in favor of his client.
Mr. Dara and Mr. Leng would now take the case to the Supreme Court, he added.
During the first trial in 2011 at the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court, hundreds of witnesses offered damning testimony that detailed a complex web of organized crime. Mr. Dara and his two subordinates were shown to have regularly solicited bribes from known drug traffickers in exchange for doctoring their records, and are believed to have netted hundreds of thousands of dollars from hundreds of criminals who they allowed to walk free over the course of four years.
In addition to the sentence, Mr. Dara was ordered to pay more than $300,000 in fines and his assets, including three plots of land, were seized. Mr. Leng was fined $21,000, Mr. Doeun $34,000, and both also lost their assets. Friday’s verdict upheld the penalties.