The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday heard the case of two port workers and a military police officer charged with stealing more than 8,000 articles of clothing from a shipping container while it was being driven to the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port.
The three suspects—Sorn Niwat, 25, Leach Kimsrun, 29, and Ear Nath, a 49-year-old military police officer—were charged with aggravated theft for their alleged involvement in a December heist of a garment container. Two other men were arrested at the time but were released after questioning.
Mr. Niwat was supposed to transport the shipping container from Pur Senchey district factory, Mastex Incam (Cambodia) Co. Ltd., to the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port—a trip that usually takes about half an hour. However, on his way there, he stopped at a lot of land in Russei Keo district to unload about 900 boxes of clothing.
“I drove the container full of clothes to stop in a land lot and four men opened the seal [to take out the clothes],” Mr. Niwat said. “I did this because I was promised $500.”
Mr. Nath claimed he was merely working as a security guard for the lot and had no involvement in the heist.
“When the clothes were dropped off, I was not there. I was outside the land,” he said.
Mr. Kimsrun also denied knowledge of the theft, saying he was only helping Mr. Niwat.
“I was just called to help remove the clothes from the container and when I went to help, I saw that there were already four people also helping,” he said.
The aggravated theft charge against Mr. Kimsrun will be revised to reflect his role as an accomplice, said deputy prosecutor Soeur Vanny.
Lim Chay, a representative of the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port and the plaintiff in the case, said both Mr. Niwat and Mr. Kimsrun were staff of the port.
“We suspected that the clothes were stolen because it took three hours for [Mr. Niwat] to get to the port, and when we checked the container, we found that half the clothes were stolen,” Mr. Chay said, adding that his company is demanding $15,000 in compensation.
Presiding Judge Suos Sam Ath said a verdict would be issued on October 28.
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