Court Releases 18 in Fisheries Office Scam

Eighteen men arrested in Sep­tember for allegedly trying to sell the Phnom Penh headquarters of the Fisheries Administration have been granted bail in light of unspecified illnesses, a municipal prosecutor said Tuesday.

Police in September said the suspects, including five Military Police officials, had been detained as part of an investigation seeking to dismantle a group behind the purported forgery of Council of Ministers documents used in an attempt to sell the Administration’s Norodom Boulevard offices.

Municipal Court Deputy Prose­cu­tor Kry Sok Y said prosecutors had not opposed a decision by In­ves­tigating Judge Chan Madina to grant bail to the suspects, who include RCAF Lieutenant General and former Funcinpec Deputy Mili­tary Police Commander Men Vichetr.

He said he could not recall the date of the decision but that Prey Sar prison and an unnamed hospital had said all the men were too ill to be held in pre-trial detention.

“The health circumstances were a problem. A disease had caused swelling, and there was confirmation from a hospital,” he said. “Some are more than 60 years old and sick.”

Chan Madina said she was too busy to answer questions Tues­day; however, Prey Sar prison Director Mong Kim Heng denied ever having told the court the men were sick or recommending bail.

Only 13 of the suspects had been detained at Prey Sar, one of whom, Sophorn Dara, remained in detention, he added.

“Some were a little sick. This is normal…. My side didn’t say they were sick and that this was a reason to release them,” he said. “My place only has the duty to detain them.”

Kry Sok Y said Tuesday that the other suspects may have been released from another prison.

Fisheries Director Nao Thuok said Tuesday he was unconcerned by the men’s release because it was police, and not he, who had initiated proceedings against them.

“The police are the ones who should complain,” he said.

Interior Ministry Penal Police Chief Mok Chito said the investigation was ongoing and the decision to release the men was an independent decision of the court.

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