Court Absolves CPP Chief of Wood Allegations

A government investigation into a nearly 18-ton cache of high-value wood allegedly being hidden inside a pig shed in Tbong Khmum province has absolved a CPP commune chief of involvement but implicated his daughter and son-in-law, who are believed to have fled to Vietnam, a court official said on Monday.

Police raided the shed in Ponhea Krek district’s Trapaing Phlong commune in March and found nearly 4,700 pieces of rosewood inside, weighing a total of 17.7 tons. At the time, police said the shed belonged to commune chief Hem Yiep. But Mr. Yiep, who tried to prevent police from entering the shed, said the property and the wood belonged to his daughter.

Chan Tara, an assistant to provincial court prosecutor Heang Sopheak, said on Monday that the Forestry Administration recently sent over the results of its investigation, which corroborated Mr. Yiep’s claims.

“We have investigated and found that the rosewood belongs to a daughter of the commune chief and her husband, and we are now looking for them because they have reportedly fled to Vietnam,” he said.

“The commune chief is not involved with the rosewood and he was found not guilty, because he just came to prevent authorities from entering the pig shed and investigating.” he added.

Mr. Tara declined to explain how the investigation had proved that Mr. Yiep was not involved or what authorities were doing to find the couple. But he said arrest warrants had not been issued.

“The court has not yet issued arrest warrants because we summoned them for questioning but they did not show up, so how can we issue arrest warrants?” he said.

Mr. Yiep declined to comment.

In March, the commune chief put the blame for the illegal wood squarely on his daughter.

“I am not involved with this rosewood. My daughter owns the wood and I never worry about her business,” he said at the time.

The Forestry Administration office that carried out the investigation could not be reached.

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