Banteay Meanchey’s Top Prosecutor Ousted, Sent to Ministry

Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court chief prosecutor Phann Vanrath, who prosecuted the trial of corrupt former national anti-drug czar Moek Dara, has been re­moved from his position and transferred to a Justice Ministry job.

A royal decree, dated Wed­nesday and signed by King No­ro­dom Sihamoni, said Mr. Vanrath would be replaced as chief prosecutor by Phnom Penh Muni­cipal Court deputy prosecutor Meas Chan­piseth, who has also prosecuted a number of high-profile cases.

The royal decree did not explain the reasons for the transfers.

Neither Justice Ministry spokes­man Chin Malin nor Mr. Chan­pi­seth could be reached for comment on Thursday. However, Mr. Van­­rath said he believed his re­moval as prosecutor was a routine transfer after a long tenure in the northwest.

“For this transfer, I think it’s just a regular rotation,” Mr. Van­rath said, citing Mr. Dara’s prosecution for 32 counts of drug trafficking and corruption in 2011 as the highlight of his time as chief prosecutor.

Mr. Dara, the disgraced anti-drug police chief, was sentenced to life in prison and ordered to pay $325,000 in fines by the Banteay Meanchey court in January 2012, in what remains one of the few cases of a high-ranking official being prosecuted for corruption.

“In brief, in my almost 5-year mandate, I have worked on a lot of case files, but the only case file in which I directly stood as the prosecutor during the trial was the one that involved Moek Dara,” he said.

“It was a huge case, and I had to take the responsibility of dealing with six [defense] lawyers.”

Mr. Vanrath also helped prosecute the yearslong fraud case against British businessman Gregg Fryett, whose case was sent to the Phnom Penh court when the province’s head judge—the now-disgraced and imprisoned Ang Mealaktei—was transferred to head the Phnom Penh court in 2014.

The trial of Mr. Fryett and three associates, who have been in prison for more than three years, is ongoing.

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