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Officials questioned over tycoon’s logging

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Authorities escort tycoon Soeng Sam Ol after his arrest. Fresh News

Five senior officials in Mondulkiri were questioned by the National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention on Saturday over a large-scale illegal logging operation allegedly run by well-known timber tycoon Soeng Sam Ol, who was arrested last week.

According to a report by NCFCP on Saturday, five provincial officials were questioned over suspicion that they could have been involved with Mr Sam Ol’s alleged illegal activities.

They were identified as Sok Kheang, director of the provincial agriculture department; Keo Sopheak, director of the provincial environment department and Um Van Sopheak, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Mondulkiri cantonment.

The rest were identified as Pet Pheaktra, chief of the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary and Han Sokhon, chief of Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary.

NCFCP spokesman Brigadier General Eng Hy yesterday said the five were summoned by the provincial court prosecutor.

“This is based on the investigation procedure. It is in order to identify others who were involved with the illegal logging,” Brig Gen Hy said. “It doesn’t mean that those who were questioned are suspects – but we need to collect more information.”

He added that the five were allowed to return home on Saturday evening, pending further decisions.

Mr Sopheak yesterday confirmed that he, Mr Kheang and Mr Van Spoheak were questioned by NCFCP over a possible link to Mr Sam Ol.

“They questioned me about this case and I told them that I was not involved with him [Mr Sam Ol],” he said. “I am not involved in forestry crimes.”

Mr Sam Ol was arrested by military police on July 8, along with two of his managers. Police initially detained Mr Sam Ol’s driver, but he was released after a period of questioning. Dozens of heavy vehicles were seized by the authorities.

Mr Sam Ol and his managers were charged on Friday by the provincial court with four counts of forestry crimes. If convicted, they face a five-year sentence each and a fine of up to about $25,000.

“The investigating judge decided to send them to pre-trial detention at the provincial prison on Friday evening,” provincial court spokesman Mam Vanda said.

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