A court sentenced a former Cambodian drug czar to life in prison Thursday for committing the very crime he was hired to fight.

The Banteay Meanchey provincial court handed Moek Dara a life sentence for taking bribes and masterminding drug trafficking, prosecutor Phan Vanrath said.

Moek Dara was secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs when he was arrested in January 2011, causing a media sensation.

Before taking up his post as drug czar, Moek Dara was a senior member of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party and served in the Ministry of Interior for several years.

On Thursday, the court also sentenced Moek Dara's aide Chea Leng to life in prison on the same charges. Former anti-drug officer Morn Deurn, who is in hiding, was sentenced in absentia to 25 years.

The court, located about 190 miles (300 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh, fined the trio nearly a half million dollars _ the amount the court said they took in bribes.

Cambodia has ramped up its war on drugs the past few years, resulting in hundreds of arrests, some involving high-profile officials.

Cambodia is not a major producer of illegal drugs but has increasingly become a smuggling transit route for narcotics, particularly methamphetamine and heroin, since neighboring Thailand started a crackdown on drugs in 2003.