Bodyguard, General’s Mother Guilty of Graft

The mother of former military general Thong Sarath and the one-time bodyguard of disgraced former Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Ang Mealaktei will each serve an additional two years in prison after being convicted of bribery related to the 2014 murder of tycoon Ung Meng Chue.

Mr. Sarath, once a Defense Ministry official with the rank of major general, is currently on trial for allegedly orchestrating the assassination, and is serving a 30-month sentence for illegal weapons possession alongside his father, Thong Chamroeun, and mother, Keo Sary.

Pech Prum Mony, left, and Keo Sary (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Pech Prum Mony, left, and Keo Sary (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The bribery charges against Ms. Sary, and Mr. Mealaktei’s former bodyguard, Pech Prum Mony, were laid after it emerged that Ms. Sary paid Mr. Prum Mony $1,000 in February last year to help arrange her release on bail after she was arrested over the weapons charges.

“The court sentences Keo Sary, 57, Khmer, to two years in prison and fines her 4 million riel [about $1,000] for the charge of ‘active trading in influence,’” Presiding Judge Yin Saroeun announced on Monday.

Two years is the minimum sentence for the crime, which carries a maximum penalty of five years and refers to “unlawfully proffering, directly or indirectly, any gift, offer, promise or interest, in order to induce a public official” in exchange for a “favorable decision from a state institution.”

Mr. Prum Mony was sentenced to five years in prison, with three years suspended, for “passive trading in influence,” which carries a maximum 10 years’ imprisonment.

Explaining the verdicts, Judge Saroeun said only that he had considered the defendants’ testimonies and inspected “documents and evidence in the case.”

The judge also announced that a charge of interfering in the murder investigation brought against Mr. Prum Mony by the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit in December had been dropped.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Ms. Sary said she was satisfied with the verdict.

“I will not appeal,” she said. “I accept it.”

Mr. Prum Mony declined to speak to reporters. His lawyer, Pheng Sideth, said there had been insufficient evidence to convict his client and that he would consider appealing the decision.

Construction mogul Ung Meng Chue was shot six times as he exited his Lexus SUV outside a fruit shop in Phnom Penh in November 2014. Four former bodyguards of Mr. Sarath are on trial alongside the general for carrying out the murder. A fifth bodyguard died of encephalitis while in provisional detention.

Mr. Mealaktei was removed as municipal court director after Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested in a speech that the court had taken a $5 million bribe to release Mr. Sarath’s parents. He is currently serving a two-year prison sentence in Kandal for making personal use of an Audi SUV confiscated from a drug dealer.

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