A Supreme Court clerk who was accused of taking bribes in exchange for influencing a judge’s ruling in May was found guilty of corruption and handed a partially suspended sentence by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday.
Vat Viseth, 30, was arrested outside Wat Botum in Phnom Penh in August by Anti-Corruption Unit officials who had been looking on as he took a $3,000 bribe from Sim Meas, a plaintiff in a case that was before the Supreme Court at the time.
Mr. Viseth admitted to charges of abuse of power and misappropriation of public funds during a morning hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, and was found guilty later in the day by Judge Thann Leng, who suspended his three-year prison sentence.
“The Phnom Penh court has decided to sentence defendant Vat Piseth, 30, to three years in prison, but he will serve only five months and the rest is suspended,” he said.
Under questioning by Judge Leng and prosecutor Ngin Pech, Mr. Viseth said he had been solicited by Mr. Meas—the plaintiff in a case against his employer—who paid him $6,000 to ask the judge to rule in his favor.
Mr. Viseth said although he had taken the bribe, he did not approach the judge as promised, and had used the money to pay for his wife’s breast cancer treatment.
“I did commit as I was charged,” he said, adding that, “[Mr. Meas] grabbed my hands and legs and begged me for help.”
But Mr. Meas testified that it was Mr. Viseth who had suggested the deal.
“He said, ‘If you don’t pay money, the court will let the other party win and they will send you to prison, even if you won at the Court of Appeal,’” he said.
In his closing statement, prosecutor Ngin Pech asked the judge to consider Mr. Viseth’s wife’s recent brush with cancer, current pregnancy and young child when deciding on his sentence. He was ordered to repay the $6,000.