The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court has laid provisional charges against the director of an import-export and freight-forwarding firm over his alleged role in smuggling more than 3,000 kg of elephant tusks into Cambodia in 2014—the largest haul of ivory ever seized in the country.
Y Kheang, an investigating judge at the provincial court, said that Khan Sinith, director of the Reho Both company, had been charged with violating Cambodia’s customs and forestry laws following an investigation by authorities that had stretched on for more than 18 months.
“The deputy prosecutor provisionally charged the director of Reho Both [Cambodia] Co. with illegally importing goods—ivory—and being involved with contraband, according to Article 98 of the Forestry Law and Article 75 of the Customs Law,” Judge Kheang said.
The judge added that his own investigation into the case was almost finished—after which he would decide whether to formally charge Mr. Sinith.
Deputy prosecutor Huot Vichet confirmed the provisional charges, but declined to discuss the case.
“I charged the person who is involved in this case already and I sent it to the investigating judge two or three months ago,” he said.
Customs officials at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port found the 3,008 kg of ivory—potentially worth tens of millions of dollars—hidden inside two shipping containers full of beans, which originated in Kenya and arrived in Cambodia via Malaysia.
Mr. Sinith said last week that he had been informed of the charges against him, but maintained that his company was not involved in importing the ivory.
Instead, he said, his company had fallen victim to the machinations of another local business, Road Express Logistics, which he claimed had used the Reho Both name to import the tusks from East Africa.
“If I had committed the crime, I would have closed my company and run away,” Mr. Sinith said.
Road Logistics Express could not be reached.
As for the ivory, Kin Ly, head of the Sihanoukville port’s customs and excise department, said it was still at the port.
“We are guarding the ivory carefully because we are scared of losing it,” he said.
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