Four men were tried by Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday for allegedly selling two litres of a liquid used to produce chemical and nuclear weapons for $3.3 million in Phnom Penh in 2016.
Presiding judge Seng Leang identified the accused as 44-year-old Vietnamese national Chea You, 32-year-old Cambodian Dy Vibol and two Khmer Krom, 58-year-old Chan Thoeun and 44-year-old Tith Reaksmey.
He said they were all charged with producing and transporting liquid used to produce chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, arms and radiation.
The judge added that they were arrested on August 30, 2016, by the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug police in Kakab commune in Phnom Penh’s Por Senchey district.
“They were arrested after they tried to sell the liquid – used to make chemical and nuclear weapons and radiation – for $3.3 million to undercover police,” he said.
Police seized two bottles of the liquid from them after their arrests, the judge added.
At yesterday’s trial, the four men confessed to selling the liquid to undercover police but claimed they didn’t know what it was used for.
They requested the court drop the charges and release them.
Mr You, the owner of the liquid, told the court yesterday the liquid belonged to an unidentified Vietnamese man living in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town.
He said the man told him the liquid was acid used for welding gold or jewellery. The man gave him the liquid to sell and promised to give him commission.
Mr You added that after getting the liquid from the Vietnamese man, he contacted Mr Thoeun and Mr Reaksmey, who both speak Vietnamese, and told them to find buyers.
Mr Reaksmey then informed Mr Vibol about the liquid and promised to pay him $330,000 as commission.
Mr Vibol contacted a buyer, who was actually an undercover agent, about the liquid.
Mr You said they were arrested after trying to sell the liquid to the agent at a restaurant in Kakab commune.
“The reason I searched for customers was because I was told the liquid was acid used for welding gold. They also promised to pay me $330,000 as commission,” said Mr Vibol.
“If I had known it was illegal stuff – drugs or substances used to make chemical and nuclear weapons or radiation – I would have never been involved with it.
“I am innocent. I would like to ask the court to release me.”
Eng Ratanak, defence lawyer for the accused, said neither police nor the court’s investigating judge had the substance tested to determine what it actually was.
“There has been no official report of an examination of the liquid by laboratory or police experts,” he said. “Unless there is an official report, my clients have not done anything wrong. Therefore, I would like to ask the judges’ council to drop their charges and release them from prison.”
A verdict is due on January 25.