Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on Friday charged former provincial prison director Nuon Vanna for allegedly accepting a bribe in return for allowing an inmate to escape custody in September.
Mr Vanna was indefinitely suspended from his post in November as the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons investigated the escape of 29-year-old Cambodian-American inmate Alexander Proeun. Mr Vanna is being detained in Siem Reap Provincial Prison pending trial, according to Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court judge Im Vannak.
“He has been charged with accepting bribes related to a critical case in which he accepted money from an inmate and arranged for that inmate to escape from prison,” said Mr Vannak.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Mr Proeun guilty of illegal detainment of human beings in 2008 and sentenced him to 17 years in prison. Mr Proeun was transferred to Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison after serving approximately one year of his sentence at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar Correctional Center 1.
Nuon Vanna had occupied his post at the prison for over a decade when the investigation into possible malfeasance began last month. At that time, Mr Vanna denied having accepting thousands of dollars from Mr Proeun, saying, “the inmate escaped by himself” during a visit to a local dentist.
“I sent three prison guards along with the inmate,” he said. “But the prisoner escaped when he was un-handcuffed so the dentist could treat his toothache,” claimed Mr Vanna in November.
According to Banteay Meanchey provincial prosecutor So Vath, Mr Vanna is now being held in Siem Reap in order to ensure his safety.
“We don’t know which inmates loved or hated him while they were under his jurisdiction,” said Mr Vath. “For the prisoners’ sake too, we detained him in a different prison.”
Mr Vath added yesterday that Mr Vanna was brought to his courthouse on Friday by Interior Ministry police but denied to give details concerning the arrest.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that Mr Vanna was arrested early last week, but also declined to give details.
“I can confirm that the Ministry of Interior lodged a complaint with Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court to take action,” said Lt Gen Sopheak.
The case against Mr Vanna marks the first prosecution of a prison director on bribery charges, according to Liev Mauv, deputy director of the General Department of Prisons.
“This is a good experience for us to address so that prison officials won’t commit acts of corruption or have the intent to accept bribes,” said Mr Mauv.
Mr Vanna never reported Mr Proeun’s escape, according to provincial police chief Hun Hean, who added that he still knew very little about the jailbreak.
“So far, I haven’t received any information about the escaped prisoner,” said Mr Hean.