The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday sentenced former Meanchey district police chief Hy Narin to three years in prison on serious corruption charges, but ruled that he would only be jailed for 18 months, with the rest of the sentence suspended.
The former officer was also ordered to return about $1.35 million to the state—double the amount he stole—and pay a $1,500 fine.
Mr. Narin was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) in late September and stood trial in March and April on charges of embezzlement and unlawful exploitation. After his arrest, the ACU accused Mr. Narin of running a number of scam and extortion rings between 2006 and the time of his arrest, stealing a total of around $678,000.
On Monday, Presiding Judge Kor Vandy told the courtroom that while he had officially sentenced Mr. Narin to three years in prison, he would only serve 18 months.
“[The court] decided first, to sentence the accused Hy Narin, 53, a Cambodian, to three years in jail but serve a prison term of 18 months,” Mr. Vandy said. “The rest of the sentence will be suspended.”
He added that Mr. Narin would also be required to return 5.43 billion riel (about $1.35 million) to the state, in addition to paying a fine of 6 million riel (about $1,500).
During Mr. Narin’s trial, Mr. Vandy summarized his many offenses, which included selling confiscated vehicles, taking a cut from illegal gambling operations, extorting local businesses, overcharging residents for family books, demanding a percentage of traffic accident settlements and pocketing the wages of “ghost employees” he had added to the district police payroll, as well as cheating his own staff out of bonuses and collecting their wages.
Mr. Vandy said the court ultimately found Mr. Narin guilty of misappropriation of public funds, which carries a sentence of between two and five years in prison and a fine of 4 million riel (about $1,000) to 10 million riel (about $2,500).
The court also found Mr. Narin guilty of embezzlement under Article 37 of the Untac penal code, which was used for prosecutions in Cambodia from 1992 until 2010. Article 37 carries a prison sentence of between three and 10 years and requires the offender to pay a fine equivalent to double the amount that was embezzled.
Contacted Monday, Om Yentieng, head of the ACU, declined to comment on the verdict.
“This is the work of the court, and our work is ours. Whether we are satisfied or we are not satisfied, [the verdict] is the right of the court,” he said.
Nach Try, Mr. Narin’s lawyer, said he was not present at the court during the sentencing, had not yet seen the verdict and did not want to comment on it.
“If I haven’t seen the verdict, how can I understand? It will only be the wrong understanding,” he said.
Preap Kol, executive director of anti-corruption group Transparency International Cambodia, said he thought the sentence was acceptable given the amount Mr. Narin would have to repay the state.
“The question is how that amount of money will be actually collected or taken from Narin,” Mr. Kol said, adding that he wondered what had motivated the judge to reduce Mr. Narin’s sentence.
“The amount of the fine and three years is reasonable, but the reduction to 18 months is still a question,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Chris Mueller)