Drug Trial Delayed Over False Statement Claims

Two women charged with drug trafficking told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday that their original police statements, which placed them in a trafficking ring, had been falsified by police.

Srey Chann and Khieu Srey­rath, both 23, were arrested in September in Sen Sok district’s Toek Thla commune and have been linked to Thav Thavy, another suspected drug dealer. All three say they have never met. 

In court Friday, Ms. Chann admitted to taking a small commission for running a Mild Seven cigarette box to an unknown person, and collecting $75 for the delivery, but denied knowing the box contained methamphetamine or having any connection to a drug ring.

“I did not know what was in that Mild Seven box,” she said, adding that a friend had called her and asked her to deliver it to an unknown man in Trapaing Chhuok village, a haven for dealers and addicts.

The hearing then turned to Ms. Sreyrath, who told the court that she had nothing to do with the drug trade and that she did not know Ms. Chann or Mr. Thavy, causing the court clerk to go back to the original police statements of the two women, which say they were accomplices of Mr. Thavy.

Mr. Thavy then told the court that he had removed himself from the drug trade in 2012, and claimed he had never sold drugs to Ms. Chann. “I have never met those two women,” he said.

Presiding Judge Seng Leang then postponed the hearing to July 8 so that the police officers who made the arrests and took the statements could be summoned to answer questions alongside the defendants.

Officials from the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) were at the court —two videotaped the entire procedure from different angles—monitoring Mr. Thavy, who is part of an investigation into Ang Mealaktei, the former director of the Phnom Penh court who was removed from his position in February amid claims of massive corruption.

When Mr. Thavy was arrested and sent to provisional detention in November, his Audi SUV, which was confiscated by the court, was allegedly gifted by Mr. Mealaktei to his policeman son.

The ACU investigation into Mr. Mealaktei has been shrouded in secrecy. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan and others have suggested that personal ties between Mr. Mealaktei and ACU chief Om Yentieng could hinder the probe.

The ACU officers declined to speak to reporters at the court Fri­day, as did Mr. Yentieng when contacted by telephone.

In April, the Justice Ministry— where Mr. Mealaktei was swiftly given a job following his ouster—declared it had completed its investigation into Mr. Mealaktei and passed the results to the Supreme Council of Magistracy, which is tasked with disciplining court officials.

On Friday, however, Chin Malin, an undersecretary of state at the Justice Ministry, said that was not the case.

“We did not send the report to the Supreme Council of Magistracy yet because we have not finished investigating this case,” he said. “When we collect enough evidence, we will send.”

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