In a final effort to persuade the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to toss out its conviction of tycoon Khaou Phallaboth for plotting to rape and murder a government minister’s wife and daughter, his lawyer on Wednesday noted that the sole witness implicating his client in the crime had retracted her testimony.
Mr. Phallaboth was sentenced to 20 years in prison along with his estranged girlfriend, Lay Huong, in March after a trial that was sparse on evidence and reliant on testimony from maids who had already been convicted for their roles in the plot.
The complainants in the case are Transport Minister Sun Chanthol and his wife, Sun Sotha, who is Mr. Phallaboth’s sister.
Aside from having a daughter together, Mr. Phallaboth and Ms. Huong were also business partners and executives in a sprawling business empire started by Khaou Chuly, Mr. Phallaboth’s octogenarian father, whose wife, Khaou Seng Chanda, is also in prison for allegedly masterminding the plot.
Mr. Phallaboth and Mr. Chuly have claimed that Mr. Chanthol fabricated the case in order to secure a greater share of the family fortune, and Mr. Phallaboth’s lawyer Lim Vanna on Wednesday urged municipal court judges to drop the conviction due to a lack of evidence.
He reminded them of a letter from Chan Sokha—a maid for Mr. Chuly who at first claimed to have overheard Mr. Phallaboth, Ms. Seng Chanda and Ms. Huong discussing the plot—rescinding her testimony.
“She was upset with my client because my client took the side of Ms. Lay Huong and she wanted revenge and was not happy,” he said of the letter, which was submitted to the court before the pair were convicted. “So she invented the story and said my client had joined the conversation.”
Mr. Phallaboth, who apparently fled the country upon being charged and has not appeared in court, initially defended Ms. Huong against the accusations, but upon being implicated himself has changed his stance, saying that she was guilty and apologizing profusely to Mr. Chanthol for claiming otherwise.
A lawyer for the transport minister and a prosecutor both told Presiding Judge San Sophat to uphold the conviction as no new evidence had been forthcoming from the defense. A final decision is expected on December 12.