Court Official Says Cash From Wealthy Wives

Each morning, Municipal Court Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savouth

ar­rives at work in one of two sport util­ity vehicles, a Toyota Prado or a Toyota Land Cruiser.

His parking space abuts SUVs owned by other se­nior court officials on the opposite side of the building from where Yet Chak­riya, deputy prosecutor, parks his black Mercedes Benz.

In a Thursday interview, Ouk Sa­vouth said his government salary is just over $400 per month.

“Amongst people who play golf, I’m the one who’s very poor,” he said.

Although most senior court officials are rich, corruption is not generally a problem in the court, Ouk Savouth said.

Educated in Russia, Ouk Sa­vouth attributed his wealth to marriages to wealthy women and private business interests, including a past enterprise in stockpiling hats from Russia to sell to Cam­­bo­dian tra­d­ers and exporting rubber.

Other court officials who ap­pear rich are also married to successful businesswomen, he maintained.

On Wednesday, Municipal Po­lice Commissioner Heng Pov call­ed for the punishment of four Mu­nicipal Court officials—including two judges, Kong Sarith and Ham Mengse, and deputy prosecutors Siem Sok Aun and Khut Sop­heang—accusing them of taking bribes in exchange for the release of six suspected criminals.

Siem Sok Aun denied the charge Wednesday, saying he would have sold his old car and bought a new one if he had re­ceived the bribe money he was alleged to have taken.

But one senior Municipal Court official said Thursday that many judges do award court victories to the richest party.

“For big law suits, the rich people win and give a gift to the judges for winning the case,” the court official said on condition of anonymity.

Although the court keeps re­cords of what decisions are made by which judges, they are not available to the public, he said.

Every judge’s decision has to be approved by Ouk Savouth, he added.

One foreign legal expert said Thursday that the four court officials named in public by Heng Pov may have been singled out due to a personal dispute with the police.

The move against the four court officials is a positive step, although ideally any case against them would be dealt with by the Su­preme Council of Magistracy or the Ministry of Justice rather than the police, said Lao Mong Hay of the Center for Social Develop­ment.

Police appear to have been frus­trated with the courts for  throwing out cases after police have gathered adequate evidence, he said.

But Lao Mong Hay added that it would be appropriate to examine other court officials, including the Appeals Court official who ac­quitted Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew Nhim Sophea in August.

“The public is entitled to say [the move against the four] is not fair because there could be others,” he said.


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