Tycoon’s Wife Given 20 Years for Murder Plot

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday convicted the wife of wealthy businessman Khaou Chu­ly and three others with premeditated attempted murder, and sentenced them each to between 18 and 20 years in jail. A fourth ac­cused accomplice was acquitted.

Mr Chuly’s wife, Khaou Seng Chanda, was arrested in July for allegedly orchestrating an assassination attempt on Sun Sotha, her stepdaughter and the wife of Sun Chanthol, vice chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia. The couple’s young daughter was also supposedly a target of the double hit, which was stymied when Ms Sotha awoke in the early morning of June 13 and shut an open door and windows.

The ensuing trial, which began in December, has garnered significant media attention and pitted two of Cambodia’s most prominent families squarely against each other, with Khaou Chuly pub­licly accusing Mr Chanthol of concocting the charges due to a squabble over the inheritance of Mr Chuly’s fortune.

After the verdict was announced yesterday, Ms Seng Chanda began to cry and gave an angry kick to a wooden spirit house in­side the court building, breaking it. Her daughters and stepdaughters also cried and embraced each other, while Mr Chuly appeared visibly upset.

“The court is not just,” Ms Seng Chanda said. “The court found me guilty, but in fact I am not guilty.”

Both Ms Seng Chanda and ac­complice Sok Lak received 20-year jail sentences, while Chan Sokha and Neang Sinat were sentenced to 18 years in jail. Yean Sothearith was acquitted because he was injured in a traffic accident before the attempted murders, and the court felt he could not have taken part in the conspiracy, presiding Judge Sin Visal said while reading the verdict.

“The court understands that there really has been a premeditated murder attempt committed by Sokha, Sinat and Lak,” Judge Visal said. “Even though they denied doing this, they do not have any proof to exculpate them.”

Chan Dara, the younger sister of Ms Sokha, said she felt the court’s decision was unjust.

“My sister has not committed this crime; it is a set up case,” she said, adding: “My sister will appeal to find justice.”

Throughout the trial, the five accused maintained that the charges against them were fabricated, with Ms Sokha saying police and Mr Chanthol had intimidated her into confessing. Ms Sinat also testified that Mr Chanthol had pressured her to confess, while a security guard at Mr Chanthol’s house claimed police had detained him and forced him to implicate the five accused.

Lim Vanna, a lawyer for Ms Seng Chanda, said he had tried to provide the court with exculpatory evidence and could not see a basis for a 20-year sentence.

“It is an injustice according to the evidence,” he said. “I am not sure whether my client will appeal or not—it depends on my client to decide.”

Pal Chantara, a lawyer for Mr Chanthol’s family, declined to comment on the verdict. Mr Chanthol could not be reached.

 

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