Criminals Confess to Paying Bribes, City Official Says

Keeping pressure on an ongoing investigation into city courts, Phnom Penh officials said Thurs­day they have sent a list to the Justice Ministry detailing criminals who have confessed to paying court officials bribes.

Sok Lakhena, municipality cabinet deputy chief, said the list of criminals and the bribes they allege paying was sent last week to Justice Minister Uk Vithun.

According to Sok Lakhena, a Justice Ministry committee currently investigating alleged corruption in 50 court cases is looking at the legal procedures employed in the suspect cases but not interviewing those who claim they paid officials bribes.

“The Justice Ministry committee only investigates procedure, but for our part we investigate the two—procedure and corruption,” said Sok Lakhena, adding the municipality has had four private lawyers investigating court corruption since Dec 3.

It is unclear how information for the new city list was obtained.

Justice Minister Uk Vithun could not be contacted for his reaction Thursday.

A second municipal official said Thursday that the new list compiled by city staff is revealing. He said 11 criminals connected to the 10 cases listed on the municipal document are willing to talk about paying bribes to court officials to escape sentencing.

“This investigation is separate of the Justice Ministry [investigation] but we will send it to them,” said the municipal official, adding Justice Ministry officials will decide whether or not to interview people who claim they paid court officials.

According to a copy of the document, the 11 criminals faced various charges of armed robbery, kidnapping and rape.

The alleged payments to court officials ranged from $600 up to $11,000 per case, according to the Municipality document.

This municipal attack on alleged court corruption follows highly-public claims made earlier this month by Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara who denounced municipal court officials for corruption.

The governor has claimed at least 66 suspects and criminals were improperly released by the courts this year. The Ministry of Justice set up an investigation committee and Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive to rearrest all criminals and suspects released by the courts.

Uk Vithun also suspended Municipal Court Director Oum Sarith and chief prosecutor Kann Chhoeun while the investigation committee undertakes its work.

Heading the investigation committee, Justice Secretary of State Suy Nou said Thursday investigation results will not be released until next week.

Human rights groups and opposition party leader Sam Rainsy have condemned the government’s rearrest campaign, calling it unconstitutional and a blow against the rule of law.



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