Khmer Times/Buth Reaksmey Kongkea Friday, 17 February 2017 2248 views

Former court president released

The former president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court – who was removed from his position after Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of corruption – was released from the Kandal provincial prison yesterday.
 

Lim Sokuntha, the chief prosecutor at the Kandal Provincial Court, said Ang Mealaktei was released after spending 18 months behind bars.
 

Mr. Mealaktei, 59, was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison by the court, but his sentence was reduced to two years.
 

Mr. Mealaktei first took his position as president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in April 2014 and was removed in February 2015 after Mr. Hun Sen intimated that he had received a multi-million-dollar bribe for freeing the parents of tycoon Thong Sarath, who was accused of ordering the assassination of a rival in November 2014.
 

Mr. Mealaktei was arrested on August 14, 2015, and questioned a number of times about widespread corruption under his watch before being sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and finally to the Kandal Provincial Court.
 

Due to Mr. Mealaktei’s three decades as a public servant and his willingness to cooperate with police, his more serious corruption charges were reduced to “unlawful exploitation” under article 32 of the Anti-Corruption Law.
 

The charge was related to a court-impounded Audi SUV that Mr. Mealaktei gave to his son without properly notifying court officials or signing the appropriate documents.
 

The court had allegedly confiscated the vehicle from a convicted drug trafficker, Thav Thavy, who was on trial at the time.
 

Mr. Mealaktei admitted to taking the car, but said he should not be charged harshly because it was returned undamaged.
 

Prosecutors admitted that trying Mr. Mealaktei would be difficult in Phnom Penh, as he had served as a mentor to many of the court’s officials and “had influence” over others.  This led to his trial being moved to Kandal province.

 

He was granted a royal pardon on November 11 last year by King Norodom Sihamoni, who wrote in the decree that his efforts as a judge and court administrator, as well as his status as a model inmate in prison, made him a worthy candidate for a pardon.
 

Mr. Mealaktei could not be reached for comment yesterday. But his lawyer, Tep Monycheath, applauded the decision and said the former judge had served his country and “worked hard for the interests of Cambodians.”
 

He added that no other criminal charges had been leveled against Mr. Mealaktei.
 

“As a lawyer, I am very happy as my client has been released by the court from prison and has returned back to meet his family,” he told Khmer Times.
 

A court officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mr. Mealaktei was a very close friend of Anti-Corruption Unit president Om Yentieng and had been promoted to the position of president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court largely due to the relationship.
 

The court officer also claimed that Mr. Mealaktei was an avid gambler and often visited casinos to play a variety of games. After Mr. Hun Sen’s comments in 2015, multiple government officials, including spokesman Phay Siphan, said Mr. Mealaktei was widely known to be involved in corruption.
 

Mr. Siphan told multiple local news outlets at the time that people within the government were “celebrating” Mr. Mealaktei’s removal and that all of his previous cases should be reviewed in light of his recent charges.
 

Mr. Mealaktei’s former head of security, 55-year-old Pich Prum Mony, was convicted in September of “passive trading in influence and unlawful interference in the performance of public functions” for serving as a middleman between the former court president and those willing to pay bribes.
 

He is now serving a two-year sentence.

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