Former SEATV Manager Tried in $4M Theft, Implicates CEO in Case

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court tried the former manager of local radio and TV station SEATV on breach of trust charges for allegedly inflating payroll and other expenditures and pocketing the excess to the tune of more than $4 million.

Defendant Sem Savanndeth, the former director-general of South­east Asia Radio and TV Station, did not attend the trial due to health problems, his lawyer said. Mr Savan­ndeth is incarcerated in PJ Prison and was reportedly too sick to attend his trial Tuesday.

The complainant in the case, SEATV CEO Kao Kim Hourn, a CPP secretary of state at the For­eign Affairs Ministry, was not in court either.

Mr Savanndeth, who was arrested in October, is alleged by Mr Kim Hourn to have stolen vast sums from the payroll of the broadcaster and to have collected funds on invoices for equipment that was never purchased and construction work that never oc­curred, Deputy Prosecutor Plang Sophal said in court.

Mr Sophal said Mr Savann­deth’s position allowed him to steal the money without oversight.

“Mr Savanndeth managed the case. Who cheated the money? He did,” the deputy prosecutor argued.

More than 10 SEATV employees testified that they received less money than was accounted for on payroll ledgers shown to them during the investigation.

Though Mr Savanndeth did not attend the trial, a clerk read his interview with investigating judges to the court.

According to that testimony, Mr Savanndeth said that his superior, Mr Kim Hourn, was well aware of all expenditures being made at SEATV and had approved all invoices and payroll documents, and that and Mr Kim Hourn was therefore as responsible as he for the massive theft of cash from the company.

“Mr Kim Hourn accused me of cheating him, but it is not true,” Mr Savanndeth said in his testimony.

Mr Savanndeth’s lawyer, Vong Pheakdey, also dismissed the court testimony of the SEATV employees as not credible.

“All of the witnesses are working under Mr Kim Hourn’s authority, so they could not say Mr Kim Hourn was a bad person,” Mr Pheakdey said.

Mr Pheakdey also requested that the judge order a full reinvestigation of the facts of the case.

Mr Kim Hourn’s lawyer Ing Kerya said that his client had originally demanded $7 million in restitution and damages from Mr Savanndeth, but had since re­duced that amount to around $4 million.

“Mr Savanndeth bought equipment for SEATV but did not follow procedure,” Mr Kerya said.

Judge Oeung Seang said a verdict for the case will be announced on May 18.

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