An Audi SUV with police license plates seized at the scene of a fatal shootout between military police and suspected drug dealers in Phnom Penh on Wednesday had been sold to the wife of a suspect by a high-ranking Interior Ministry official, ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said on Friday.
Major General Ros Ossa, a deputy secretary-general at the ministry’s political affairs secretariat, sold the Audi to the wife of Lim Kimteng, 36—who was killed in the firefight—about four months ago, General Sopheak said.
“He sold his car with his number plate to the wife of the suspect,” he said.
“We found the paperwork from the sale, so he’s not the owner of the car, and he wasn’t involved in the case,” he added.
Gen. Sopheak said that in the four months after purchasing the car, Lim Kimteng’s wife neither paid taxes on the vehicle nor requested that the police plates be removed. He said a committee had been established to review Maj. Gen. Ossa’s involvement and could suspend or demote him as necessary.
“He made a mistake after he sold it by never explaining that the woman should have changed the number plate. We will have to wait and see whether the committee accuses him,” he said.
Lim Kimteng was arrested for drug trafficking in April 2013 and served one year in prison, according to court documents.
Pan Sopheap, chief of the municipal police’s anti-drug bureau, said the five suspects arrested in connection to Wednesday’s shootout would be sent to court on Saturday.
The gun battle followed the arrests of two small-time drug dealers earlier on Wednesday. When the pair brought military police to a villa in Tuol Kok district believed to be the base of operations for a local trafficking ring, officer Tien Karuna was shot dead inside, prompting a hasty retreat before some 30 additional officers returned to trade fire with the occupants for about an hour.