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Former Pursat Prosecutor Loses Appeal in Bribery Case

Experts say as little as 30 percent of the country’s forest cover remains, while logging continues to be a problem.

The Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a lower court decision sentencing a Pursat province court official to 19 years on charges related to corruption.

Top Chan Sereyvuth, the former prosecutor for Pursat’s court, was last year found guilty of accepting nearly $3,000 in bribes to release two suspected timber smugglers. Wednesday’s decision was the result of a hearing held in February.

Environmental activists say he was a major impediment to stopping illegal logging in the province.

The Appeal’s Court chief judge, Pol Sam Oeun, said the court was upholding the decision of the Pursat provincial court but that the defendant could appeal to the Supreme Court.

Two of the former prosecutor’s bodyguards, Chhiut Vuthy and Ros Samnang, were similarly sentenced for their role in the bribery scheme. An arrest warrant has been issued for a third man, Top Chan Sereyvuth’s brother-in-law, Pich Kong Yu, who has reportedly fled the country.

“I think the Appeals Court’s decision is right,” said Kheang Seng, deputy chief of the Anti-Corruption Unit. “The court’s verdict follows the law.”

Defense attorney Kea Chhay said the sentencing was unjust because Top Chan Sereyvuth had not received bribes. He said he would consult his client before proceeding with a Supreme Court appeal.