Defendants Deny Charges Of Bribery

The former bodyguard of ex-Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Ang Mealaktei and the mother of ex-Defense Ministry official Thong Sarath on Thursday denied the charges against them stemming from the 2014 fatal shooting of businessman Ung Meng Chue in Phnom Penh.

Mr. Sarath has been charged with orchestrating the murder and is in jail serving an illegal weapons conviction.

His mother, Keo Sary, was on trial on Thursday for “active trading in influence” for allegedly paying the bodyguard, Pech Prum Mony, for helping to secure her release on bail in February 2015 after her own arrest for illegal weapons possession. Mr. Prum Mony was on trial both for “passive trading in influence” and for interfering in the investigation into the murder, the latter of which he was already convicted for in November.

During Thursday’s trial, Presiding Judge Yin Saroeun focused on the trading charge, which is based on a February 2015 lunch meeting in Phnom Penh at which the bribe was allegedly paid.

Mr. Prum Mony told the court that he went to the meeting at Ms. Sary’s request to tell her fortune, but only as a ruse—on orders from Mr. Mealaktei—to get close to the family in hopes of uncovering the whereabouts of Mr. Sarath, who was then at large.

The bodyguard admitted to receiving a gift basket from Ms. Sary for his fortunetelling, but denied Ms. Sary’s claims that he was also paid.

“Did you get any envelope?” Judge Saroeun asked.

“No, nothing,” he replied.

Ms. Sary told the court that she paid Mr. Prum Mony $1,000, and $500 each to two other people who came to the lunch meeting with him so that they would not get jealous.

“What was the $1,000 for?” the judge asked.

“It was for fortunetelling,” Ms. Sary answered.

“Just for this fortunetelling you gave $1,000? Are you so generous?” the judge pressed.

“Yes, I am,” she said.

Ms. Sary’s lawyer, Tuot Lux, said it was impossible that the money was a bribe because the two did not know each other before the meeting. “It is clear that it is just suspicion,” he said.

A verdict in the case is due on September 5.

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