The trial of disgraced former Meanchey district police chief Hy Narin, who was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) in September and charged with embezzlement, extortion and unlawful exploitation, began at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday.
The ACU spent eight months investigating Mr. Narin and, after interviewing 41 of his colleagues in the force, compiled a case file of alleged scams and claims that he was behind a network of racketeering rings that had earned him an estimated $678,000 between 2006 and the time of his arrest.
The court will try him for eight separate cases, each of which includes a catalog of offenses that Presiding Judge Kor Vandy summarized for the courtroom Wednesday.
The list includes selling confiscated vehicles, taking a cut from illegal gambling operations, extorting local businesses, overcharging residents for family books, demanding a percentage of traffic accident settlements and pocketing the wages of ghost employees he had added to the district police payroll, as well as cheating his own staff out of bonuses and collecting their wages.
Mr. Narin admitted to some of the charges in court Wednesday, but said that most of the money generated through illicit practices went back to his unit.
“Regarding the salaries of absent and inactive officers, did you collect or take them?” Consulting Judge Ros Piseth asked him.
“I did not directly do it,” he said, adding that all salaries went through the accountant. “I don’t know the number, but I know they gave me 10 million riel [about $2,500] every month through [the accountant] Mr. Lay Kim Chhun.”
Mr. Narin confessed to profiting from an unspecified number of ghost employees, but claimed that in most instances, the wages were used to finance the upkeep of the headquarters and purchase gasoline and equipment for his officers.
Responding to questions about extorting citizens who needed a family book, Mr. Narin said the additional 50,000 riel (about $12.50) per book was offered freely.
“There was never any forcing, but if they gave us it, we took it,” he said, adding later that he personally only received half of that sum and, again, put it to good use. “When I got it, I used it for the unit.”
Mr. Narin said graft was so ingrained in the system that his supposed victims did not see it as such.
“[Businesses] would give 200,000 riel [$50] as a tea money but I did not require them to pay,” he said. “They paid out of old habits from previous district police chiefs.”
The former police chief did dispute another irregularity, however, when deputy prosecutor Vong Bun Visoth accused him of misspending a post-election security budget provided to support training for his officers.
“Why did you have to economize this money? Did you have other plans for it?” the deputy prosecutor asked.
Mr. Narin said he never intended to steal the money, and returned the remaining 70,000,000 riel (about $17,500).
“You sent the money [back] to the police chief because this matter was revealed,” Mr. Bun Visoth replied.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that former Meanchey district police chief Hy Narin was arrested in October. He was arrested in September.