Phnom Penh Municipal Court has released a man who was arrested in February, accused of helping his friend embezzle $1.5 million from Canadia Bank, a judge said Sunday.
Pheung Samreth, manager of the Planet Textile garment factory, was released from PJ Prison on March 21 and all charges against him were dropped, after he promised to pay $300,000 back to the bank, Judge Kim Sophoan said.
“He did not know the money was stolen,” the judge said. He said that Kim Sophea, former head of the letters of credit department at Canadia, paid Pheung Samreth for garments using money allegedly taken from the bank and that Pheung Samreth had no knowledge that the money was stolen.
Police arrested the two men on Feb 19 after Canadia Bank filed a complaint. Kim Sophea was charged under article 46 of the Untac law, pertaining to “breach of trust,” and Pheung Samreth for abetting an illegal act.
Kim Sophea remains in prison, the judge said.
At the time of the arrest, Phuong Khinh Hoa, Canadia Bank’s vice president said that Kim Sophea had confessed to using his friend’s account to earn interest on Canadia Bank clients’ money.
But according to Pheung Samreth’s lawyer, Kao Soupha, his client was not involved in the alleged scheme and had merely accepted the $300,000 as payment for garments he sold to Kim Sophea’s brother in Canada. “We will claim the money from [the] brother in Canada,” the lawyer said Sunday.
Phuong Khinh Hoa said Sunday that the decision to release Pheung Samreth was “the decision of the police” and he did not want to comment on the case as it was ongoing. In February, the bank’s vice president said Kim Sophea had been able to take the funds because clients handed him cash personally rather than going through proper procedures.
“The bank did not reject [Pheung Samreth’s] release compensation,” Judge Kim Sophoan said Sunday. He added that the court does not know what Kim Sophea did with the rest of the money reported stolen.
Calls to Planet Textile were not successful Sunday.
The factory employs 96 garment workers, and it was unclear whether it would be affected by the $300,000 repayment to Canadia Bank.
(Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)