Phnom Penh Court Declines To Detain Official in Bribery Case

In a closely guarded ruling, Phnom Penh Municipal Court de­clined last month to detain a former government official charged with accepting $30,000 in bribes during a land dispute.

Seng Yean, former deputy director-general of inspections at the Ministry of National Assemb­ly-Sen­ate Relations and Inspec­tion, was fired by Prime Minister Hun Sen in July after an internal inquiry found he had taken the bribe to in­fluence his findings as part of an inquest into a land dispute in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district.

Mr Yean denies the charges.

In a Jan 26 ruling, Judge Sin Visal said his probe was incomplete.

“Upon completion of questioning and a review of the case file, [the court] finds that the case is not completely investigated yet,” Judge Visal wrote. The court “de­cided not to detain the charged person provisionally.”

Judge Visal in December denied accusations that he had improperly de­nied lawyers for villagers in the case from accessing the case file.

Mr Yean was charged in August with accepting a bribe from a wo­man named Dy Proem and 120 villagers during his investigation of a dispute in which the villagers claim­ed to own 6.675 hectares in Kakab commune’s Kakab village.

On Jan 25, Mr Yean told the court in a statement that a supposed confession he had given to ministry investigators Long Norin and Yi Mao in May had been false and extracted under coercion.

“I would like to deny my confession to Mr Long Norin, who wrote it and read it to me and then forced me to give my thumbprint. Mr Long Norin and Mr Yi Mao told me that they had obtained an en­dorsement from Samdech Prime Minister. That’s why I decided to give a thumbprint.”

Mr Norin could not be reached yesterday. However, Mr Mao de­nied Mr Yean’s charges.

“When we questioned him, he was in his senior position as deputy director-general. None of the investigation members dared to threaten him,” said Mr Mao.

Judge Visal declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

 

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