Former Consul to Vietnam Again Denies Forgery

A former deputy consul-general to Ho Chi Minh City, who stands accused of forging documents to allow luxury-grade wood to be exported into Vietnam, again denied the charges in court Monday despite being presented with the diplomatic notes he had improperly issued.

Taing Sok Ngy, 38, was arrested in June last year in Phnom Penh for producing counterfeit documents allowing Cambodian companies to export about 300,000 cubic meters of luxury grade timber from Cambodia into Vietnam.

In one case, a representative of the Heng Ly Company gave Mr. Sok Ngy what was purportedly a Commerce Ministry letter allowing 1,000 cubic meters to be exported to Vietnam, with Mr. Sok Ngy allegedly issuing diplomatic notes approving the exports without checking its veracity.

Mr. Sok Ngy claimed on the first day of his trial in August that he had checked its authenticity with the Commerce Ministry and he was presented Monday with the purported letter during his trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, along with the diplomatic notes of permission.

“This is the document you received, is it not?” Judge Veng Hourt asked.

“Yes, I received it,” Mr. Sok Ngy said.

“Who did you receive it from?” the judge asked.

“I received it from Mr. La Orn,” Mr. Sok Ngy said, referring to a representative of the Heng Ly Company.

The court also presented six other directives approving timber exports which were sent to Ho Chi Minh from the Council of Ministers. The directives each had multiple diplomatic notes from Mr. Sok Ngy attached approving the exports.

Judge Hourt then questioned Mr. Sok Ngy on why he had issued more than one diplomatic note per directive, each time dividing the total allowed export amount into smaller segments and giving permission letters to multiple companies.

Mr. Sok Ngy explained that exporters of wood simply could never sell the entire amount of wood permitted at one time, so they had asked him to issue separate diplomatic notes allowing smaller amounts to pass into Vietnam.

“The licenses were to sell in this amount but the buyers did not have the ability [to purchase that amount], so they requested to separate them in order to sell to those companies,” Mr. Sok Ngy said.

“This was against the directive,” Judge Hourt replied.

Deputy prosecutor Kham Sophary told the court that there was enough evidence to prove Mr. Sok Ngy’s guilt.

“Based on the inspection of the aforementioned proof and facts, the prosecutor has enough evidence that Taing Sok Ngy is guilty of charges of forging public documents,” Mr. Sophary said.

Muong Thunleaphy, the lawyer for Mr. Sok Ngy, said the court had only shown that her client took government directives and translated them into Vietnamese to allow wood to be exported over the border.

She said this did not constitute forgery, as Mr. Sok Ngy had checked that the directives were legitimate and then done his job as a consular official.

“If my client altered the directives, added meaning to the directives, photoshopped or forged signatures, then this would be something my client has forged,” she said. “In fact, there is nothing that has been forged.”

A verdict is due to be handed down on October 30.

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