Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday convicted and sentenced two former Ministry of Mines and Energy officials to two years imprisonment for unlawfully selling a plot of state land worth $45,000 in 2014.
Presiding Judge Theam Chanpiseth also ordered that ownership of the land, in Preah Vihear province, be given back to the state and that the two former officials pay fines of nearly $6,000 each.
Kong Makara, 53, the former provincial chief for the ministry, was identified as the mastermind of the crime and Nuon Phally, 46, the former provincial finance chief, was identified as his accomplice.
The men sold the land in Kampong Pronak commune for $45,000 to a businessman and said during their trial that they split the profit with staff at the provincial office.
Mr Makara’s predecessor Sam Leang Ny uncovered the crime and reported it to the Anti-Corruption Unit, which arrested the men in November 2016.
Both men ignored questions from reporters following yesterday’s verdict.
But during their trial, they admitted selling the land and claimed it was not unlawful because they notified all staff working under them, even providing them with a cut of the cash.
“The reason why we decided to sell the land was because we needed to make money to support the poor living conditions of our provincial mines and energy officers,” Mr Makara said during his trial, noting that his underlings were given $2,000 each.