Bank robber of $6M asks to be released

An accused bank robber who admitted to stealing $6 million has asked the Supreme Court to release him temporarily because he had returned the money.

In a court hearing on Tuesday Chan Simuntha, 39, told the judge that on January 18, his wife Teang Vathanaknearyroth told him that the staff at Canadia Bank had told her to take some packages from the back of the building.

He said when he reached the bank he took the black packages to his car and drove home. He did not know they contained money, he said.

The next day he travelled abroad with his wife for 10 days before returning to Cambodia where they were arrested.

The prosecutor charged Simuntha with conspiracy. His wife was charged by the Phnom Penh court and sent to Prey Sar prison. They did not agree with the sentence so they filed an appeal, but the verdict was upheld.

“I ask permission from the court to let me stay out of jail so that I can take care of my old father and kids aged three and four who have no one to look after them,” Simuntha said in court.

One of his two defence lawyers, Thuy Sokun, said his client, who is a deputy director at the Ministry of Civil Service, was told by his wife to go to Canadia Bank and take three black packages. Those packages consisted of $6 million that customers kept in the bank.

His wife sent a text message to the general department of taxation to ask about the amount of money required to pay for tax. After the text, his wife did not pay the tax and went abroad.

Several days later the department of taxation contacted Canadia Bank because they did not see the money.

The bank investigated and discovered that the wife took the money, but then returned it. The purpose was to transfer to Khmer currency to make a profit, he added.

“I requested the court to consider allowing my client to stay out of jail because he promises to follow the directions of the court and he has little kids at home to take care of,” the lawyer said.

A lawyer representing Canadia Bank said he acknowledged that the suspect paid back the money, but he still requested that the judge uphold the verdict of the Appeal Court.

Prosecutor Uk Kimseth said the suspect paid all the money back so there is no damage for the bank. He still said it is up to the judge to consider the request.

The court will issue a ruling on June 4.