Belgian Murder Suspect Flees Cambodia on Bail

A Belgian man who was released on bail from Kampot Provincial Prison after spending a year detained as the chief suspect in the murder of a French tourist said on Monday that he had returned to his home country.

Olivier van den Bogaert, 41, was arrested in April 2013, about 10 weeks after the body of 25-year-old Ophelie Begnis washed up on the bank of the Kampot River.

On Monday night, despite the ongoing investigation into the murder of Ophelie Begnis, Mr. van den Bogaert said via email that he was back in Belgium.

The murder suspect declined to say how he had managed to leave the country.

Police and court officials said Tuesday that authorities had possession of Mr. van den Bogaert’s passport, but none could agree on exactly which authorities had it.

Appeal Court Judge Khun Leang Meng, who in April ordered Mr. van den Bogaert’s release due to a lack of evidence, said the Kampot Provincial Court was responsible for keeping the passport.

“The investigating judge confiscated [Mr. van den Bogaert’s passport] already,” Judge Leang Meng said, before hanging up on a reporter.

Kampot Provincial Court Investigating Judge Hang Sokun Vathana said the court prosecutor had confiscated the suspect’s travel document.

“The prosecutor confiscated [the passport] already,” Judge Sokun Vathana said, declining to elaborate on what he said was “a secret court investigation.”

However, Ek Chheng Huot, the provincial prosecutor, said he did not know about Mr. van den Bogaert’s case, and referred all questions back to the Appeal Court.

Kampot police said last week that they had no evidence against Mr. van den Bogaert and that they were still searching for a red-haired foreigner in connection with the case, but declined to give further details.

Nicolas Baudouin, first secretary at the French Embassy, said that while the case was still open in France, local police are leading the investigation.

“It is up to the Cambodian police and the investigating judge to take care of,” he said.

sovuthy@cambodiadaily.com, blomberg@cambodiadaily.com

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