Court Upholds Guilty Verdict Against Tycoon

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday upheld its guilty verdict against construction and agriculture magnate Khaou Phallaboth, who was convicted along with his estranged partner earlier this year of plotting to rape and murder a government minister’s wife and daughter.

Mr. Phallaboth is wanted for arrest after being tried in absentia and sentenced in March to 20 years in prison along with Lay Huong, who was extradited from Thailand to face trial. Mr. Phallaboth’s current whereabouts are unknown.

Presiding Judge San Sophat told the municipal court on Monday that the guilty verdict handed down on March 24 was upheld upon review, despite complaints from defense lawyers that the only evidence supporting the decision was testimony from unreliable witnesses. He did not explain the decision and could not be reached for comment.

Representatives of Transport Minister Sun Chanthol, who accused Mr. Phallaboth and Ms. Huong of masterminding a plot involving maids and an assassin to break into his villa and rape and murder his daughter and wife, said they were pleased with the decision.

“I am happy because the court gave justice to His Excellency Sun Chanthol and his family,” attorney Pal Chandara said.

Lim Vanna, a lawyer for Mr. Phallaboth, said the court was refusing to acknowledge that the maid who claimed to have heard his client discussing the plot had repeatedly changed her story, and most recently said she invented the claims out of anger.

“There is no proof showing that he committed the [crime as] charged by the prosecutor,” he said, adding that he would let his client decide whether to appeal the decision.

Mr. Phallaboth, who runs his octogenarian father Khaou Chuly’s sprawling business empire, at one point claimed that Mr. Chanthol fabricated the case in order to secure a greater share of his family’s fortune. However, when he became ensnared in the case, he publicly apologized and said he had since realized that Ms. Huong was guilty.

Mr. Chuly’s wife, along with three others convicted of conspiring in the plot, are serving lengthy prison sentences.

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