Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana has called for the suspension of Kompong Speu Provincial Court Prosecutor Kong Set following a corruption investigation, according to the minister and a copy of the investigation report obtained Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Ang Vong Vathana ordered inspectors from his ministry to travel to Kompong Speu to question the entire provincial court, following complaints that Kong Set was involved in illegal logging and an extortion racket.
Ang Vong Vathana confirmed Tuesday that he had requested the suspension. He said, however, that the final decision lies with the Disciplinary Council of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, which is the highest legal body in the land.
“Whatever the Disciplinary Council decides…the Supreme Council will approve it,” the minister said by telephone before referring further questions to Supreme Court Prosecutor-General Ouk Vithun, who is in charge of disciplinary measures against the country’s prosecutors.
Ouk Vithun said he did not know when the Disciplinary Council would review or rule on the report’s findings. The Disciplinary Council “can not take the case to be looked at right away,” Ouk Vithun said.
The five-page investigation report, which was filed with the Disciplinary Council on Dec 5, contains nine “irregularities” in Kong Set’s capacity as a prosecutor, including the wrongful release of suspects, the improper charging of police officers and the extortion of monthly kickbacks of between $25 and $50 from unlicensed gasoline vendors.
The report also states that Kong Set ordered an Environment Ministry official to allow the transportation of 27 cubic meters of illegally-logged timber, which was then used in the construction of the prosecutor’s house in Phnom Penh.
“Kong Set has not acted appropriately in accordance with the criminal procedures,” investigator So Chanthy, wrote in the report.
The report is signed by Ang Vong Vathana, who also wrote in the report: “Agreed. If it is a necessity, should ask the Supreme Council to suspend him temporarily.”
Kong Set has previously denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the investigation launched into his affairs was the result of a feud with a wildlife sanctuary official.
Contacted on Tuesday, Kong Set declined to comment in detail about the findings in the report.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said by telephone. “Wait until they do something,” he added.
This is not the first time that Kong Set has been in the public spotlight for the wrong reasons.
In August 2005, Kong Set was condemned by local and international groups when, as a Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge, he controversially sentenced Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun to 20 years in prison for the murder of union leader Chea Vichea, a killing many believe the pair did not commit.
The first time Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun appeared at the municipal court in 2004 the case against them was, for lack of evidence, thrown out by then-presiding Judge Heng Thirith.
Four days after dismissing the case, Heng Thirith was himself removed from the Phnom Penh court. Kong Set was assigned to the case a year later.