The protocol chief of Senate President Chea Sim yesterday became the fourth member of Mr Sim’s inner circle to be arrested since Friday in relation to a criminal investigation involving forgery and fraud.
Pheng Kunthea Borey, 56, the well-known protocol chief for the Senate president, was arrested by immigration police while trying to cross into Thailand from Koh Kong province, said Suos Sok Dara, director of the Cham Yeam International Checkpoint. After her arrest, she was brought to Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Ms Kunthea Borey, who was also an adviser to Mr Sim, with fraud under articles 377 and 380 of the penal code, according to her arrest warrant, which also stated that the warrant was issued to prevent her from escaping.
“Pheng Kunthea Borey, who is charged with fraud, has affected the top leaders of national institutions,” the warrant said.
“In order to ensure the…completion of the investigation, the court should bring Pheng Kunthea Borey to face the investigating judge to find out the truth.”
As part of the same investigation, Phnom Penh Municipal Court also charged two former advisers to Mr Sim—police Lieutenant General Chan Kosal, 60, and Lieutenant General Ponlork Ho, 58—as well as Mr Sim’s former Cabinet member Khieu Bora, 50, according to National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito.
“Chan Kosal and Khieu Bora were charged with document forgery and using forged documents. Ponlork Ho was charged with three charges -document forgery, using forged documents and fraud,” he said, but declined to provide further details.
All three charged men are being held in provisional detention at Prey Sar prison.
Deputy Prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth declined to discuss the case against the four, claiming “it could affect national security.”
Ms Kunthea Borey was escorted from the courthouse by military police at 7:30 pm. A military police officer who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media said she was taken to Prey Sar prison, where she will remain in provisional detention ahead of trial.
That same officer said that the four suspects are accused of cheating millions of dollars from a Malaysian company looking to invest $500 million in Cambodia.
Lt Gen Kosal, Lt Gen Ho and Ms Kunthea Borey are all referred to on the website of Malaysian businessman Armin Baniaz Pahamin. According to the website, Lt Gen Kosal and Lt Gen Ho, who are described as well-connected police officials, made trips to Malaysia in the past year and were helping facilitate what appeared to be the opening of a Malaysian-backed business in Cambodia.
The website also carries pictures of Lt Gen Kosal introducing Mr Baniaz Pahamin -the owner of a car dealership in Malaysia – to Mr Sim and Ms Kunthea Borey in Phnom Penh in late 2010. Attempts to contact Mr Baniaz Pahamin were unsuccessful.
Oum Sarith, secretary-general of the Senate, said he was unaware of the criminal case and referred questions to Mr Sim’s cabinet.
Lieutenant General Yim Leang, the recently appointed chief of Mr Sim’s bodyguard unit, reiterated that Lt Gen Kosal and Lt Gen Ho had been relieved of their duties as advisers to Mr Sim before they were arrested.
The arrest of officials once in Mr Sim’s inner circle follows the August arrest of Lieutenant General Chhoeun Chanthan, the former chief of Mr Sim’s bodyguard unit, who was charged with illegal weapon possession and forgery. Lt Gen Chanthan is currently detained at the Military Court ahead of his trial.