The Appeal Court on Wednesday denied Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s bid to quash a March conviction for breach of trust, upholding a lower court ruling which sentenced him to serve 18 months in jail and pay a $150,000 fine.
A lawyer for the prince said the lawsuit had been brought for political reasons and a Norodom Ranariddh Party official vowed to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Judge Thou Mony, also a judge in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Trial Chamber, said after a four-hour hearing that Prince Ranariddh had indeed committed breach of trust by buying land with the $3.6 million proceeds from the 2005 sale of Funcinpec headquarters.
“The Appeal Court upholds the Phnom Penh Municipal Court [decision],” he said.
Thou Mony also ruled that, as the lower court had not named the recipient of the damages to be paid by the prince, they should go to Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay.
In court, Prosecutor Ngeth Sarath argued that by giving himself title of the new $2-million Funcinpec headquarters in the capital’s Dangkao district, the prince had assured that it was his personal property and not Funcinpec’s.
He also said the lawsuit had resulted from the party’s fractiousness, which led to the prince’s ouster a year ago.
“If there were no split in the party, there would also be no lawsuit,” he said.
Thou Mony said the prince could have avoided trouble by naming himself a party representative on title documents.
Cambodian Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun, who defended the prince, argued that as Norodom Ranariddh had been Funcinpec’s “historical president,” there was no need to do as Thou Mony suggested.
He also said Ngeth Sarath had admitted the case was politically motivated.
“You said if there were no split, there would be no complaint. It is politically motivated,” he said. “My client didn’t commit breach of trust.”
NRP Secretary-General You Hockry said the party would appeal and that the prosecution was an attempt to keep the NRP leader abroad.
“As you heard, if Prince Norodom Ranariddh had had a good relationship with Funcinpec, there would not have been a complaint,” he said.