Customs Officer Blames Bribes on ‘Extravagance’

A Phnom Penh customs agent accused of compromising national security by accepting bribes from foreign companies to process import documents was tried in absentia on Wednesday after complaining he was too ill to show up in court.

Ung Chea Veng, an official at the Finance Ministry’s customs and excise department, was arrested in July by the Anticorruption Unit.

Mr. Chea Veng confessed that month to accepting $4,990 for processing several sets of documents and agreed to pay $72,000 in compensation, according to a statement by the defendant read out in court.

His lawyer, Chhun Vinita, asked the judge for leniency, claiming Mr. Chea Veng had been swept up by the “extravagance” of modern life.

“My client felt remorse and promised next time he would change and become a good person,” Mr. Vinita said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Hor Lina, however, argued his actions had seriously threatened national security.

The verdict on a charge of misappropriation of public funds, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison, is expected on November 10.

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