Sunday, 23 January 2011 22:20 Vong Sokheng
Former anti-drug czar Moek Dara ran a drug-selling scheme from within his anti-drug department, leading to charges of both corruption and drug-dealing with the possibility of a life sentence, Om Yentieng, head of the government’s Anticorruption Unit, said on Friday.
“They used the anti-drug department as a network for selling drugs,” Om Yentieng said at a press conference aimed at outlining the investigation that led to the ACU’s most prominent arrest yet. “Under the new penal code, a person who sells drugs will be sentenced to life in prison”, he said.
Moek Dara, former secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, was arrested on January 11, along with Chea Leang, former chief of the anti-drug office at the Ministry of Interior.
Police have said the arrest of former Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean and his deputy, Chheang Sun, led them to Moek Dara and Chea Leang.
Chea Leang and Chheang Sun were also charged with both corruption and selling drugs, whereas Hun Hean was charged with corruption only, Om Yentieng said.
Moek Dara set up a drug-dealing ring and took more than US$70,000 in bribes, Om Yentieng said.
In the case that led to his arrest, Moek Dara had allegedly confiscated two kilogrammes of heroin, but reported only 1 kilogramme to the court, keeping the rest at his office along with thousands of tablets of methamphetamines, Om Yentieng said.
Om Yentieng held up a hand-written testimony from an anonymous officer that he said sparked the investigation, which he said may lead to more cases.
“The court has issued a warrant for us to continue investigating more of the big cases that have been implicated by this testimony,” the ACU director said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen warned on Saturday that high-ranking government officials would not escape investigations for corruption, especially relating to drugs.
“Drugs are a giant virus threatening to destroy society and the government has taken a hot measure, including the crackdown against high-ranking officials up to the rank of three-star general,” Hun Sen said at the inauguration ceremony for a new school building in Phnom Penh.
But Hun Sen said that even a general “bearing the moon”, the highest rank, could be arrested for corruption.
On Friday, Hun Sen said in a statement issued by the Council of Ministers he would not tolerate “even those claiming to be a loyalist of the Cambodian People’s Party” who were found to be corrupt, selling drugs, land-grabbing or illegal logging, and said they must cease such activities immediately.
Human Rights Party spokesman Nehm Ponharith said he “welcomed” the moves against corruption and hopes the government brings “real political will” to the fight.