Two Officials Convicted of Defrauding Farmer

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday sentenced two government officials to three years in prison, with one year suspended, after they were found guilty of aggravated fraud.

Nuon Sarath, 42, a former officer from the Justice Ministry’s civil department, and Keo Sophal, 48, a former officer with the Ministry of Interior’s heritage department, were charged last year with fraud after a year-long investigation by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).

“The court finds them guilty of aggravated fraud and taking $2,500 from the plaintiff,” presiding Judge Sin Visal said on handing down the verdict Monday.

Mr. Sarath and Mr. Sophal had posed as ACU staff and falsely promised San Yen, a 35-year-old farmer from Kampot, that they could get his incarcerated cousin released from jail. After he realized he had been cheated, Mr. Yen then filed a complaint against the two men.

“They promised the victim they’d get a prisoner released from jail…but after they paid the prisoner was not released,” said Judge Visal, adding that the men had thirty days to appeal the verdict.

Outside the courtroom Monday, Mr. Sarath said he would not be appealing his sentence.

“I took the money from the victim and will not appeal,” he said.

Mr. Sophal also said he would not be appealing, but claimed he had passed the money on to “high ranking officials” in order to get Mr. Yen’s cousin released, and had in turn been cheated by them.

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