Cambodia: Police chief ‘stole US$60,000 of seized property’

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN) - A Stung Treng provincial Military Police commander is accused of misappropriating more than US$60,000 of possessions.

An investigation has been carried out into a Stung Treng provincial
Military Police commander accused of misappropriating more than $60,000
of possessions seized in a raid.

Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung, a member of the Supreme Consultation
Council, last week released documents purportedly showing that Eang
Vandy has failed to return $60,000 of cash and belongings confiscated
during an investigation into a suspected gambling operation in 2013.

The gambling case was later thrown out.

Vathana Sabung, the president of the Khmer Rise Party, released the
documents following a probe into Vandy after he received a complaint
from Se Mengchea, whose possessions were seized.

Mengchea said he had more than $200,000 in property, including
10 cars, 14 motorcycles, receipts of money lent and valuable furniture,
taken from his home in Stung Treng town’s Stung Treng commune.

Vathana Sabung said Vandy had abused his position. He had confiscated
property and arrested Mengchea and his wife, and had them jailed
unjustly. He had failed to respect the legal apparatus of the court and
had covered up evidence.

Vandy, he said, had also failed to properly record the inventory of
the seized evidence and ignored orders from the Anti-Corruption Unit
(ACU) to return Mengchea’s possessions.

“We consider this to be a most special case because Vandy has
repeatedly used the name of the head of the government when carrying out
unacceptable actions. He is also involved in many other similar cases,”
Vathana Sabung said.

Mengchea told The Post on Monday that many of his possessions that were seized by Vandy had not been included in the inventory.

Money and possessions worth some $60,000 had yet to be returned, he said.

The seizures came after provincial Military Police raided Mengchea’s
property, from which he runs a motorbike shop and cafe, on suspicion
that he carried out gambling operations there.

The Stung Treng Provincial Court found Mengchea and his wife guilty
of allowing people to gamble at their home. After serving seven months
in prison and his wife one, with her in hospital for six months, the
Appeal Court dismissed the case due to a lack of evidence, Mengchea
said.

“They took all our possessions. I didn’t commit any wrongdoing as
accused. After being released from prison, I sought assistance from many
high-ranking officials and institutions, and even Sao Sokha [the deputy
commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces].

“Vandy later returned money and belongings, but slowly and over time.
I went to the Anti-Corruption Unit, which gave me two documents. But
Vandy still hasn’t followed procedure and returned all that was taken,”
Mengchea said.

The ACU documents, dated 2016 and 2018, show that property was taken
in the 2013 operation. Some items were properly itemised while others
were not, despite the prosecutor’s orders that everything be properly
accounted for in the inventory.

The first letter says that seized property, including $1,700 and 30
million riel ($7,500) in cash, and two motorcycles were not inventoried
and had not been returned.

The second letter, sent to Vandy on February 2 last year, notifies
that he had still failed to return all illegally seized possessions.

“The failure to properly implement procedure is not the fault of the
ACU, which did not receive the correct information. The commander
[Vandy] has claimed that there are only three people in Cambodia that he
is afraid of. The first is Prime Minister Hun Sen, the second is Kith
Meng and the third is Sao Sokha.

“Such language tarnishes the honour of the leadership here. The ACU
would like to stress that in the past, Sao Sokha has given [Vandy] ample
opportunity to rectify his shortcomings and improve his conduct.

“However, he has failed to obey the principles of law. The ACU
continues to wait to see improvements in the conduct of the commander
before it decides on further action,” the letter said.

In June 2016, Vandy was disciplined by Sokha on grounds of improperly
fulfilling his duties. He was ordered to return all of Mengchea’s
property.

Sokha, the deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, told
The Post on Tuesday that all police officials must carry out their
duties professionally. If they act improperly, the law must be enforced
strictly and without tolerance or fear.

“The ACU has the right to investigate and arrest those guilty of
corruption based on the evidence. Anyone guilty of corruption must be
held accountable under the law. However, an entire organisation should
not be tarnished because not everyone is corrupt,” Sokha said.

Anti-corruption Unit chief Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment by The Post on Tuesday.

Vandy could also not be reached for comment on Tuesday. A man who
answered his phone said he was a driver for Vandy, who had just had an
operation and was recovering in hospital.

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