The director of Preah Vihear’s provincial department of mines and energy and a subordinate were charged on Thursday over allegations of selling $80,000 worth of state property, officials said.
Kong Makara, the department’s director, and Nuon Pally, the chief of its finance bureau, were charged in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court by deputy prosecutor Nhin Pech for embezzlement following an investigation by the Anticorruption Unit (ACU), said court spokesman Ly Sophanna.
The charge carries a five- to 10-year prison sentence.
Y Rin, another court spokesman, said the suspects were being held at PJ Prison, but declined to answer further questions.
Sam Leang Ny, the former department director, said the case came to light last year when a for-rent sign appeared on a 1,000 square-meter plot on the department’s premises, sparking questions from journalists.
“Reporters called me and said that Kong Makara, the new director, was accusing me of selling the land,” Mr. Leang Ny said. “I called the commune chief to find out who had sold the land, and the commune chief told me that the person who sold the land was Nuon Phally.”
During Mr. Leang Ny’s tenure, the department owned roughly 6,000 square meters of land in Preah Vihear City’s Kompong Branak commune on which its offices were located, he said.
But Mr. Makara and Mr. Phally “split up the department land and sold it privately—about 1,000 square meters for $80,000,” he said. Empty when it was sold, the plot had been built up with two apartment blocks since, he added.
Mr. Leang Ny said he was questioned by the ACU about six months ago, and told its officers that he had already retired in 2011 and the land sales happened between 2014 and last year.
“I answered that I didn’t know because I had left,” he said.
Kok Chhuon, the Kompong Branak commune chief, confirmed that it was Mr. Phally who had sold the land, before hanging up on a reporter.