Tycoon’s Trial Delayed When His 12 Lawyers Fail to Show Up

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The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on August 18, 2021 (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
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The Phnom Penh Municipal Court postponed the trial of tycoon and three-star general Duong Ngeap again after his 12 defense lawyers did not turn up without reason.

On Tuesday, the court was supposed to hear three cases related to Ngeap: a felony case where he is the defendant; a misdemeanor case where he is the accused; and another misdemeanor case where he is the plaintiff. Taiwanese man Huang Hsiao Hsien is also named in the cases alongside Ngeap.

After reading out the cases and charges, presiding judge Sin Sovannaroth introduced a preassigned defense lawyer for Ngeap, but the tycoon declined to accept her because he did not know her, and asked for delay.

According to criminal code procedures defendants facing a felony charge have to have a lawyer for the trial to proceed. If the defendant does not have a lawyer, they will be assigned a lawyer from the Bar Association.

Judge Sovannaroth said the trial had been delayed twice already, and all of Ngeap’s 12 defense lawyers were absent without reason. But the three related cases were linked in their facts, so they needed to be delayed to be heard together, the judge said.

The judge also warned a guard from PJ Prison, where Ngeap is being held, for allowing the tycoon to arrive at court in civilian clothes, not a prison uniform. The judge was also unhappy with prison guards for failing to transport Ngeap to court during prior hearings.

“If such a case happens again… I will make a formal letter to the Interior Ministry or general prisons department,” the judge said.

In July 2017, two Taiwanese individuals, Chih Yu Yen and Yao Ching King, bought two plots of land from Ngeap in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district for around $7 million. But Ngeap allegedly escaped after receiving the money, and when the party later tried to settle the dispute, Ngeap purportedly issued three invalid checks to them.

The trial is now set to be held on September 29.

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