For more than two hours on Thursday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Dep-uty Prosecutor Sok Kalyan questioned a member of the de-fense team for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea as part of an investigation into kickback allegations at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant who with Dutch defense lawyers Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe lodged a complaint this month seeking the investigation, said following the interview that the defense was encouraged by the encounter, but concerned that a coming change in the prosecution’s leadership could pose a conflict of interest.
As part of a rotation of court officials announced last week, Yet Chakriya, currently deputy co-prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, is to replace Ouk Savouth as chief prosecutor at the municipal court.
Both Yet Chakriya and Ouk Savouth declined to comment on Thursday. However, Ianuzzi said he had raised the matter during discussions with Sok Kalyan, who may soon work under Yet Chakriya.
“We raised the issue of an appearance of impropriety and a possible conflict of interest,” said Ianuzzi, adding that the defense had also said any investigation should seek to obtain the findings of a confidential UN review of kickback allegations at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Sok Kalyan told reporters he now plans to summon Koppe and Pest-man for questioning, and that the complaint lodged by the Nuon Chea team had offered little evidence of kickbacks, which will likely be difficult to uncover if it exists.
“The complaint did not clearly show who committed corruption. It just explained the lawyers’ worries that it could affect their defense,” Sok Kalyan said, adding that if it does exist at the tribunal it could pose a risk to Nuon Chea’s fair trial rights. Sok Kalyan said he was committed to carrying out a thorough investigation.
“Corruption is very hard to investigate. It may require a lot of technique to investigate,” he said, adding that kickbacks are rarely documented and therefore generate little physical evidence.