The arrests of two Canadia Bank officials on Sept 2 stemmed from a financial dispute between an estranged husband and wife, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Police Chief Hok Lundy intervened, the couple’s lawyers and several court judges said this week.
Following the couple’s separation, husband Chea Sok had Municipal Court Judge Kim Sophorn issue an urgent warrant ordering Canadia Bank to freeze a joint account holding $500,000 under the names of his wife, Sun Sokuntheary, and his sister, Chea Han, the couple’s lawyers agreed.
According to Kar Savuth, the lawyer of Sun Sokuntheary, his client’s husband left her without capital and in debt to business partners.
So Sun Sokuntheary appealed to Municipal Court Judge Tan Senarong for a warrant to gain access to the joint account. Tan Senarong granted the warrant, Kar Savuth said.
But Canadia Bank did not budge.
Sun Sokuntheary then appealed to Municipal Court Judge Hing Thirith, who also granted a warrant for her to gain access to the account.
Canadia Bank still did not budge. Not until Prime Minister Hun Sen endorsed Hing Thirith’s warrant with his signature, Kar Savuth said.
That set other powers in motion.
“National Police Chief Hok Lundy took action to pressure Canadia Bank to follow the court decision, especially after the intervention letter from Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Kar Savuth said.
Municipal Police Chief Heng Pov last week confirmed the arrest, overnight education and subsequent release of two Canadia Bank officials.
Canadia Bank officials on Sept 3 denied any bank employees had ever been in police custody.
All of this wrangling, though stamped with judicial and government authority, occurred outside the legal system. The husband and wife simply appealed to officials to act on their behalf.
“A lot of court cases have been helped and pressured by the high-ranking. This is our legal system today,” said one judge involved with the case, who asked not to be named.
“The intervention from the top officials is illegal, according to the country’s law,” he said. “But, you know, this is Cambodia.”
“If a party goes to the powerful official first, that party will win.”
Sun Sokuntheary withdrew the $500,000 from the Canadia Bank joint account, and a divorce proceeding within the Cambodian legal system, as eventually prescribed by Hun Sen, is expected to begin in several months, according to the judges and lawyers involved in the case.