Former Anti-Drug Police Chief’s Life Sentence Upheld by Court

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the life sentences of former anti-drug police chief Moek Dara and his co-defendant Chea Leng, effectively bringing to an end any hope the pair have of ever being released.

The men were jailed for life by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court in 2012 on more than 25 counts of drug trafficking and corruption—a sentence that was upheld last year by the Court of Appeal.

A third defendant, Morn Doeun, confessed to the charges, but fled before he could be tried. His 25-year prison sentenced was reduced by five years last year, but he remains at large.

“[The Supreme Court] decides to reject the complaint of Moek Dara, Chea Leng and Morn Doeun’s lawyer Kea Eav,” presiding Judge Khim Pon announced as he upheld the lower courts’ verdicts.

“We decide to uphold the Appeal Court’s verdict from February 15, 2013, and order their continued detention in [Prey Sar] prison,” Judge Pon added.

Speaking during the hourlong hearing, fellow presiding Judge Heng Priya said the convicted men failed to provide exculpatory evidence or any proof that they were not guilty of the crimes.

During the first trial in 2011, Moek Dara was implicated by hundreds of witnesses as having operated a sophisticated crime syndicate in which he and his co-defendants regularly solicited bribes from drug traffickers, whose criminal records would be doctored in exchange for cash. He and his subordinates are believed to have “earned” hundreds of thousands of dollars as they allowed criminals to walk free over a four-year period.

Moek Dara, who has always denied any wrongdoing, was not present for Friday’s hearing, the last ever in his case, because he was sick, his lawyer May Vannady said.

“We cannot accept the Supreme Court’s decision, because the court did not give justice to Moek Dara—there were 25 counts, but many of those cases are suspicious,” Mr. Vannady said.

Chea Leng said the final ruling was “unjust,” and the charges brought against him a punishment for years of work nabbing drug criminals and seizing their illicit substances.

“The reason they want to hurt me is because previously, we cracked down on a majority of drug traffickers and confiscated tons of drugs, so there were a lot of suspects that hate me,” he said.

“If they allow me to continue to file complaints, I will file,” he added.

In addition to the sentence, Moek Dara was ordered to pay more than $300,000 in fines and his assets were seized. Chea Leng was fined $21,000 and Morn Doeun $34,000.

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