The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) on Sunday sent disgraced former Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Ang Mealaktei to the Kandal Provincial Court, where the chief prosecutor provisionally charged him with embezzlement for confiscating an SUV from a drug trafficker and giving it to his son, officials said.
Mr. Mealaktei was arrested at the ACU’s headquarters in Phnom Penh at 12:10 p.m. on Friday, about six months after he was ousted from the municipal court and given a position at the Justice Ministry.
ACU chairman Om Yentieng said in a text message Sunday that the Kandal court would question Mr. Mealaktei over what happened to the Audi SUV, which was confiscated as part of the municipal court’s investigation into the drug trafficker, Thav Thavy.
“We found that Thav Thavy, who was initially arrested on November 25, 2014, and released on bail on February 6, 2015, was involved with Ang Mealaktei in misappropriating an Audi SUV in 2010 worth $67,000 and [Mr. Mealaktei] seized the car for his personal interests,” Mr. Yentieng said.
On Saturday, Mr. Yentieng said the ACU arrested the former court director after he was questioned at the ACU’s headquarters, and because his answers matched evidence investigators had already collected.
“Don’t be confused: We did not arrest him on the street. Basically, we invited him to listen to his answers at the ACU,” he said at the time.
Lim Sokuntha, chief prosecutor at the Kandal court, said Sunday that he provisionally charged Mr. Mealaktei with intentional destruction and embezzlement—a single charge that carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
“I charged him…and handed him to Investigating Judge Y Sovann to continue the procedure,” he said.
“I don’t know whether the judge decided to detain him,” he added.
Mr. Sokuntha did not say whether Judge Sovann also charged Mr. Mealaktei. The judge could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Mealaktei was removed from his position at the municipal court on February 17, just hours after Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested in a speech that court officials took a multi-million-dollar bribe to release the parents of Thong Sarath, a Defense Ministry official who stands accused of orchestrating the murder of tycoon Ung Meng Chue in November.
Later in February, the National Police posted a statement to its website accusing Mr. Mealaktei of giving Mr. Thavy’s SUV to his own son, a deputy police chief in Prampi Makara district.
On August 7, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Mr. Thavy of trafficking methamphetamine and sentenced him to two years in prison, but only required that he serve eight months.
In the months following Mr. Mealaktei’s removal, the ACU said it was collecting evidence against him, but the process has largely been kept secret.
Some, including Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, have suggested that the close personal relationship between Mr. Mealaktei and Mr. Yentieng was hindering the investigation.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said Sunday that Mr. Mealaktei’s case was likely sent to the Kandal court because he could have received preferential treatment by his former colleagues if it had been sent to the municipal court.
“I think that authorities did not send him to the Phnom Penh court because it would cause a conflict of interest,” he said. “The authorities sent him to the Kandal provincial court because the court officials who are responsible for the case there will be able to apply pressure during questioning.”