The trial of seven people, including a former anti-drug police officer and a Vietnamese-Canadian national, accused of involvement in a major drug smuggling ring got under way at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.
Bun Pov, a 38-year-old former first lieutenant in the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug police department, appeared in court along with Sok Uy, 34, Vietnamese national Lam Sokha, 53, and Vietnamese-Canadian Ngo Huu Tuan. Three other defendants–Taing Meng Huo, Chun Samnang and Check Daravicheth–are still at large.
The suspects were arrested in October last year after a raid on a house in the capital’s Meanchey district uncovered 16 kg of heroin and nearly 2 kg of methamphetamine, with a combined value of around $600,000, and a stash of counterfeit US currency. The raid was the culmination of a five-month investigation between the Interior Ministry judicial police department and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, ministry officials said at the time.
During the hearing, Mr Pov admitted selling around $45,000 worth of heroin to an undercover police officer, saying he had purchased the drugs from Ms Sokha. However, he denied involvement with the counterfeit money. “I am not involved in trafficking counterfeit US currency,” he said.
Ms Sokha confessed to supplying Mr Pov with heroin, saying she could not recall who she bought it from. “I bought 26 packages from Stung Treng province through a taxi driver,” she said. Ms Sokha also claimed police had confiscated more than $100,000 of private, unrelated funds at the time of her arrest.
Mr Uy, on the other hand, denied involvement in drug smuggling but admitted buying $50,000 worth of counterfeit money, with the intent of selling it.
The fourth defendant, Vietnamese-Canadian Mr Tuan, has repeatedly maintained his innocence, saying his arrest is a matter of mistaken identity. In court yesterday he claimed he had only sought Mr Pov’s help in arranging documents to set up a taxi company, and denied supplying Mr Pov with drug-making chemicals. Proceedings will continue on June 21.