Documents provided by Khmer Rouge tribunal administrator Sean Visoth prompted the abrupt closure of a prosecutorial investigation into alleged kickbacks at the court, a municipal deputy prosecutor said Tuesday.
Deputy Phnom Penh Prosecutor Sok Kalyan on Thursday ended his preliminary investigation, which was launched Jan 9 at the request of international lawyers for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, only two days after saying he intended to proceed with the inquiry and summon multiple witnesses.
The complainants, Dutch lawyers Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe, and US legal consultant Andrew Ianuzzi, had sought the investigation of Sean Visoth, Cabinet Minister Sok An, former tribunal Personnel Chief Keo Thyvuth and unnamed others as part of an alleged “organized regime of institutional corruption,” which they feared could jeopardize Nuon Chea’s fair trial rights.
Sok Kalyan explained Tuesday that Sean Visoth, who has been on sick leave from the court since Nov 26, had appeared Feb 3 in response to a summons but had only provided audit reports, saying he would not discuss anything else.
Sean Visoth was the only witness summoned, he said.
“There was enough clarification from a witness,” said Sok Kalyan. “There were audits and documents placed on the case file which the witness, Sean Visoth, has already submitted. The result of these investigations didn’t say there was corruption.”
As a result of unconfirmed kickback allegations, the tribunal in 2007 undertook a series of human resources and management reviews and audits designed to strengthen anticorruption and hiring practices at the court. These were not investigations.
However a confidential UN review of kickback allegations made by Cambodian staff at the court last year reportedly called for a full investigation. Joint UN and Cambodian talks last month to devise a new anticorruption program at the court were unsuccessful though the UN said last week that discussions will continue.
Sean Visoth on Tuesday declined to answer any questions.
“I am still on sick leave,” he said. “I am more than happy to answer any of your questions when I come back.”
Sok Kalyan said on Tuesday he could only provide some details of the documents which caused him to end his inquiry.
“I looked at them all but I don’t remember all,” he said. “The documents were investigated since the beginning in seven phases by the foreigners.”
“There was no phrase that said as the conclusion: there is corruption,” he added.
In April last year, the court’s project board released the results of a two-week review conducted by consultants from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu according to which reforms were sufficient “to minimize the risk of questionable […] practices occurring in the future.”
Andrew Ianuzzi, the legal consultant, declined Tuesday to comment on the documents cited by Sok Kalyan before seeing them but said that so far the Nuon Chea defense had not been keep abreast of developments in the case.
“The fact that these things were kept from us is troubling,” he said, adding that their complaint submitted in January specifically mentioned the audit reports.
The complainants intend to appeal but no final decision has been made, said Ianuzzi.