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Man headed to court for trafficking ‘ancient’ relic

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The bronze artefact was seized on December 17, 2020. Police

Man headed to court for trafficking ‘ancient’ relic

Russey KEO district police are set to send a man to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on December 21 for trafficking an artefact rumoured to be worth $70 million.

The broker was arrested on December 17 along with the owner of the bronze artefact while planning to sell it.

Russey Keo district police chief Heang Tharet declined to provide details on December 20.

“We are sending the case to the court on December 21 for legal procedure. The officials of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts are studying and determining the real value of the artefact. I cannot comment further yet,” he said.

Culture ministry spokesman Long Ponnasirivath confirmed to The Post on December 20 that Russey Keo district police had arrested a broker involved in the trafficking of an artefact and its owner for questioning.

Ponnasirivath said ministry officials would reveal the artefact inspection result on December 21.

The owner of the artefact in question was identified as Suong Tak, a resident of Kaing Cham commune in Stung Treng province’s Thala Barivat district.

“It is a real artefact, but I don’t know which type of metal it is or the ‘age’ [of the bronze]. I do not believe that it is worth $70 million per gramme [as rumoured],” he said.

Ponnasirivath said officials had called Tak to retrieve the artefact he hid in Kngok village, and took him to Phnom Penh for further questioning and to run a forensic examination.

Thala Barivat district police chief Sem Sitha said on December 20 that Tak had a prior criminal record four years ago and ran away from home.

“But recently I heard that he has an ancient artefact in his house. I do not know about the element of the artefact, but we just brought Tak to the Stung Treng provincial police for further questioning,” he said.

Hor Vuthy, minor crimes bureau chief at the Stung Treng provincial police, said on December 20 that after questioning at the provincial police, Tak was referred to the Russey Keo district police and culture ministry officials for further procedures.

“According to Tak, the artefact belonged to his grandmother, and a few years ago, someone wanted to buy it for $20 million, but he did not sell it. Later, someone offered a high price, so he tried to put the artefact on sale,” he said.

According to local media reports on December 20, the relic is a “Khmer artefact aged more than 200 years old and worth millions of dollars”.

The reports said that due to conflict of interest, the artefact owner complained to the authorities to arrest the broker who threatened the owner to get more benefit from him.

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