Ministry Accused of Illegally Holding $300,000

The attorney representing former Phnom Penh police Chief Heng Pov accused the Interior Ministry on Thursday of illegally holding $300,000 belonging to his client.

The money was confiscated during a July 31, 2006 search by authorities of Heng Pov’s home in Takhmau town, which also turned up $30,000 in counterfeit US

In July, the Phnom Penh Muni­cipal Court sentenced Heng Pov and his wife, Ngin Sotheavy, to 14 years and 13 years, respectively, for possession of counterfeit money.

Heng Pov is now serving a total of more than 40 years for the counterfeit conviction and additional murder, illegal confinement and illegal possession of weapons convictions.

Lawyer Kao Soupha said by telephone Thursday that his client’s $300,000 of legal tender should never have been confiscated by the police.

“The money was not found to be illegally obtained or from corruption,” Kao Soupha said. “Everyone has money,” he said of his client’s finances.

Kao Soupha also said that the law requires that all confiscated items be relinquished by police to the court as several additional cases against Heng Pov, including two attempted murder charges and one extortion charge, are pending.

Municipal court Judge Chey Sovann said Thursday that the jailed police chief’s money is under court control and is being “kept in one place.”

He declined further comment.

Heng Pov’s arch rival, Interior Ministry penal police Chief Mok Chito, who was part of the search team that found the money, said the court is keeping the money in a bank account. Only the court has authority over the money, he added.

The court ordered the confiscation of the money because of suspicion that it was earned from extortion and murder, Mok Chito said.

He also claimed that Kao Soupha is simply trying to secure payment of his extensive legal fees owed by Heng Pov.

“He’s not fighting for justice, just his legal fees,” he said.

Authorities have ordered the arrest of Heng Pov’s wife, who has since been granted political asylum in Finland.

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