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Six tried over theft at shoe warehouse

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea / Khmer Times Share:
The accused leave court. KT/Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried six factory workers who allegedly broke into a Chinese-owned factory’s warehouse and stole 44 kilograms of leather and other shoe-making materials worth $40,000 in Dangkor district last year.

Presiding Judge Im Vannak identified them as Sarun Sokros, 25; Mao Dana, 23; Veth Chirath, 23; Chhom Li, 21; Heng Nea, 20; and Khem Veasna, 18.

They all worked with the Super Cham Factory, owned by a Chinese businessman and located in the district’s Prey Veng commune.

Judge Vannak said all six were charged with thefts with aggravating circumstances and face up to seven years in jail each if convicted. They were arrested on June 11 last year in the commune.

Judge Vannak said that about 2 am on June 3 last year, the six accused broke into the Super Cham Factory’s warehouse and stole 44 kilograms of leather and other shoe-making materials.

“When the factory’s security guard was asleep, they forced open the warehouse’s doors and entered to steal the leather and other materials stored inside,” he said. “They then loaded their loot into a mini bus which they had rented from a transport company and drove off.”

Judge Vannak noted that at about 7am the next day, a company representative arrived at the factory and saw that the warehouse doors had been forced open. The representative alerted commune police.

He added that police viewed the factory’s CCTV, identified the suspects and arrested them while they were working in the factory on June 11.

During yesterday’s trial, all six denied stealing the shoe-making materials as accused.

They claimed that they were not the ones captured on the CCTV footage and that police beat them and forced them to confess.

They requested the court to drop the charges and release them from prison.

Mr Chirath told the court that on the night of the theft he was staying with his wife and son at his rental room in Chom Chao commune.

He said that he heard from other workers that the factory’s warehouse had been broken into when he came in to work at about 7 am on June 4.

Mr Chirath said that on June 11, commune police came to the factory and questioned him before arresting him.

“Police accused me of stealing the factory’s materials. During interrogation, they beat me and forced me to confess,” he told the court. “They told me that they would set me free if I confessed.”

“But after I confessed to committing the crime, they handcuffed me and sent me to court before jailing me,” Mr Chirath added. “I am innocent. Please drop the charge and release me.”

Mr Nea told the court that on the night of the theft, he was out drinking and dancing with a group of friends at a nightclub in Daun Penh district’s Wat Phnom commune.

“I know nothing about the theft at the factory and was not involved,” he said. “So far I have been in jail for nearly 10 months and urge the court to find the truth and free me.”

Tong Kimlun, 65, Super Cham Factory’s general manager, told the court that the six accused had stolen 44 kilograms of leather and other shoe-making materials worth $40,000.

He asked to court to punish them severely in accordance with the laws and to order them to pay $40,000 in compensation.

A verdict is due May 7.

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