Illegal Confinement, Torture Trial Over Online-Gaming Business Dispute

5 min read
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on August 18, 2021 (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
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Five Indonesian men stood trial on Friday over charges of drug possession, illegal confinement and torture amid a period of instability within an online gaming business that connected the group.

The group is charged with holding the victims, a pair of brothers from Indonesia named Tommy and Jimmy who were allegedly shareholders in the online business, at an apartment in Phnom Penh in an incident that took place over a 26-hour period. There, the men allegedly tortured the brothers on August 28, 2021.

Police say the group inflicted physical harm upon the brothers and at one point during the incident placed a dog collar around the neck of one of them to humiliate him.

The five who appeared Friday in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court denied the charges against them.

According to presiding judge Song Bunnarith, the five Indonesians as well as two Chinese nationals and a Cambodian man all faced the same charges. The Cambodian, Kong Raksmey, who was the head of security at the apartment building of one of the Indonesians, and the two Chinese nationals were absent from the trial.

The men who appeared on Friday said they were at the apartment on the date in the criminal complaint but it was only a normal night of discussion after a restaurant meal.

Under questioning from the court, Kent Wijaya, 45, whom prosecutors believe to be the leader of the group, said he had known the brothers since his childhood in Indonesia. Wijaya said he came to Cambodia in 2019, and that he and the brothers founded the gaming business together in 2020.

He said on the day of the alleged incident, he met the brothers for a meal at a Chinese restaurant near the riverfront to discuss their business. Afterward, Wijaya said the trio went to the Sky Tree apartment building in Russei Keo district, where Wijaya had an apartment.

“Everything was just normal,” he said of the night.

Wijaya said he had invested between $400,000 and $500,000 for the business, but was trying to get his money back. On the day of the incident, Wijaya said, he just wanted to talk with the brothers and work out how that might happen. Those business discussions were peaceful, he insisted, with nothing out of the ordinary.

Prosecutors and police tell a different story for that period of time — from 1 p.m. on one day to 3 p.m. the following day. Investigating judges probed whether Wijaya had locked the brothers into the apartment, and asked if he placed a gun on the table to intimidate them.

He denied all of that, saying the men had talked, and then he’d gone to bed, leaving them to continue discussing business in his apartment.

Uy Samphallarith, deputy director of the National Police’s intelligence department, said he’d led the investigation after receiving a complaint from the victims two days after the incident. Samphallarith said he’d started at Sky Tree and asked for cooperation from the building owner.

However, he said the defendant Raksmey, who was in charge of security at the building, tipped the Indonesians off to his enquiries, and sent his photo to the men. That appears to be the extent of Raksmey’s involvement, from what the police official said in court.

After that, Samphallarith said, the men escaped to Siem Reap and later came to rent two rooms at an apartment building he called the Tonle Sap.

During a raid on that building, he continued, police confiscated nearly 1 kilogram of drug substances from an apartment rented by the two Chinese nationals involved in the case. Police found Wijaya hiding in that apartment, Samphallarith said.

The police official’s testimony was all in Khmer, which none of the defendants are believed to speak, and provided a narrative behind the more specific questioning from the judges. The court provided an English-language interpreter for the five accused.

Wijaya said he didn’t know the Chinese people, and that he had run from his own apartment when the police came, and had asked to stay in theirs. His defense lawyer Chov Chhor Vorn argued the same, saying the drugs were not connected to Wijaya’s case. Chhor Vorn went further to say the evidence against his client was unclear, and that the incident in question was simply a normal business meeting.

Attorney Lim Eng Ratanak, who defended the two Chinese nationals, said his clients were at large and have submitted no testimony.

The police official Samphallarith said officers in the raid on the Tonle Sap apartment building also confiscated a phone on which they found a video of the victim Jimmy with a dog’s collar around his neck, with someone ordering him to bark like a dog.

Samphallarith said that appeared to have happened at the Chinese restaurant, which he said was a private establishment not advertised to the general public.

The other men who took the stand on Friday denied the brothers were treated harshly that night.

Judges asked Rudi Suparno, one of the five accused Indonesians, about the video of Jimmy, which he said he knew nothing about.

Besides that, Suparno said he had a small share in the online business and knew the brothers. Though Suparno confirmed they had spoken with Wijaya on the day in the complaint, he said the conversation had been nonviolent and without any guns.

However, his fellow defendant Hemdra Cahyadi, 21, said there had been at least some violence between the men. Cahyadi said that he had punched Jimmy that night, which he said was retribution from a time in the past, before the alleged incident, when Jimmy had struck him.

The judges confirmed Cahyadi had struck Jimmy, but didn’t press that line of questioning any further.

The trial concluded on Friday but no date was set for a verdict announcement.

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