The alleged “mastermind” of a multimillion-dollar international drug smuggling gang has fled to Laos, while his lieutenant was charged in Phnom Penh on Monday with manufacturing, trafficking and possessing narcotics, officials said.
Deputy National Police Commissioner Mok Chito said the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday charged Liv Seu, 50, but that the gang leader, who he would not identify, was still at large after a police operation in Stung Treng province late last week failed to apprehend him.
“[Mr. Seu] was the second mastermind, while the first mastermind is in Laos,” he said. “We are looking for the first mastermind.”
Mr. Seu had been held in the Stung Treng provincial prison since April over illegal weapons charges unrelated to the drug case, according to police, who transferred him to Phnom Penh on Monday.
Kor Vandy, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and an investigating judge, said he charged Mr. Seu on Monday and sent him to Prey Sar prison for provisional detention.
“We are in the process of investigating,” Judge Vandy added, declining to comment further.
As part of last week’s operation, led by the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department, police arrested a Cambodian woman, Phal Rany, 22, and two Chinese men, Deng Yuan Ping, 53, and Ly Yong, 42, in Phnom Penh Thursday and Friday.
Between the three, police found 38 kg of crystal methamphetamine, 16 kg of methamphetamine tablets and 345 grams of heroin. Police said the entire haul had an estimated street value of $3 million.
According to police, the drugs were trafficked from Laos to Phnom Penh, where the gang planned to distribute some of them in nightclubs and smuggle the majority to Taiwan.
Oum Sopheakdey, a deputy prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said Monday that the court charged the three arrested in Phnom Penh on Sunday.
“They have been charged, but I don’t know what the judge charged them with,” he said. “They have been sent to Prey Sar prison.”
On Sunday, Mr. Sopheakdey said he had recommended that the court charge the two men with producing and distributing illegal drugs and the woman with participating in a criminal enterprise.
Lieutenant General Chito said that while Mr. Seu was not actually arrested while in possession of any drugs, the three other suspects claimed the meth seized in Phnom Penh belonged to him and the head of the gang.
Lt. Gen. Chito said Monday that Mr. Seu was also previously jailed in Kampot for five years on drug trafficking charges.
“They have run this business for a long time,” he said. “He has done this business since he was young until he was old.”
According to Lt. Gen. Chito, the four suspects admitted to police that they had on numerous occasions smuggled methamphetamine from Laos to Cambodia and then on to Taiwan.
“They distributed some locally in small numbers and the majority was sent to Taiwan,” he said.
Khieu Saman, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department, said Cambodian authorities were cooperating with Laos in an effort to arrest the ringleader.