Former Taiwan triad chief Chen Chi-li, arrested July 8 for possession of illegal weapons and organized crime activities in Cambodia, has denied the charges against him and his alleged links to government officials, a Phnom Penh Municipal court official said Wednesday.
The former gang boss also claims the stash of automatic weapons, hand guns and a grenade launcher uncovered at this Tuol Kok residence do not belong to him.
Investigating Judge Nop Sophon said Wednesday that gang godfather Chen Chi-li, 58, along with Taiwanese national Lia Mong In, 28, and mainland Chinese national Quong Ou Quing, 45, were formally interviewed for several hours Wednesday morning at the court house.
Appearing in the Municipal Court for the second time since his arrest, Chen Chi-li, a former adviser to Senate President Chea Sim and holder of the prestigious Cambodian title Okhna, complained Wednesday that he is feeling unwell.
The Taiwanese man is suspected of suffering from cancer, Nop Sophon said.
Despite this, a decision to grant bail has not been made yet, he said.
According to Nop Sophon, Chen Chi-li claims the weaponry belongs to his Cambodian bodyguards who were hired to protect him.
“I only asked them about the guns and I don’t have any more evidence to charge them with yet,” Nop Sophon said, adding that Chen Chi-li has denied he has any links with government officials.
“Although they deny to answer some of my questions I am going carry out further investigations,” Nop Sophon said, warning that the case looks very complicated.
Two Interior Ministry officials said last week that Chen Chi-li, one-time boss of Taiwan’s notorious Bamboo Union triad, has the support of high-ranking Cambodian officials who mobilized to have him released from custody.
However, his supporters have retreated following the Prime Minister Hun Sen’s announcement one week ago that he would target Taiwanese organized crime.
Klaing Huot, governor of Tuol Kok district where the three were arrested, said Monday that friends in the National Assembly and Senate recommended he should not have become involved in the Chen Chi-li case because of the Taiwanese man’s connections.
“But I must do this to save my country,” Klaing Huot said.
Powerful people are suspected also of removing documents related to the granting of the Cambodian diplomatic passport which Chen Chi-li carries, Long Visalo, under secretary of state at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said Wednesday.
“There is a registration form that [Chen Chi-li] has a diplomatic passport but no other documents,” said Long Visalo noting that he has checked and found nothing.
Only a very powerful person could have engineered the removal of documents from the ministry, he added.
Chen Chi-li “was granted the passport before I began working here….You would have to ask the officials who worked here then who granted him the passport,” Long Visalo said .
According to an Asian diplomat based in Phnom Penh, Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have complained that a high-ranking official in the senate has pressed for the issuing of diplomatic passports to his advisers, which number over 100 people.
A senior Interior Ministry official said last week that positions as adviser to the unidentified senate official mean little, as the title of adviser can be allegedly purchased for $20,000,
While it is estimated that the number of Cambodian diplomatic passports is in the thousands, no firm figure is available, Long Visalo said, adding that a sub-decree is being drafted to standardize the issuing process.
According to the diplomat, an estimated 5,000 Cambodian diplomatic passports are in circulation even though the entire Cambodian diplomatic corps only numbers between 400 and 500 people.