The government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) on Thursday announced it was launching an official investigation into allegations that deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha made unlawful land and apartment purchases for a mistress.
The announcement comes after a series of audio recordings were leaked on Facebook earlier this month of a man, allegedly Mr. Sokha, discussing various sexual topics as well as plans to buy two apartments and a plot of land with a woman, his alleged mistress.
A group of students who have been following Mr. Sokha around the country to demand answers about his alleged affair filed a complaint with the ACU last week asking the body to examine whether the properties were bought with ill-gotten gains.
On Thursday, ACU Chairman Om Yentieng said the body had decided to launch an investigation after what it described as a thorough technical analysis that proved beyond a doubt that Mr. Sokha was the man in the recordings.
“The ACU accepts your complaint to take action,” he said at a public meeting on Thursday, addressing the students in the audience.
Chea Samrath, head of the ACU’s examination department, which analyzed the leaked recordings, said it compared the man’s voice with several known recordings of Mr. Sokha on the Internet, television and radio using four separate specialized programs.
“So the audio recordings leaked on the social network and the sound of His Excellency Kem Sokha are exactly the sounds of one person—they completely match,” he said.
Mr. Yentieng said the ACU would also be forming a four-person committee to comb through sealed asset declarations Mr. Sokha made to the ACU in 2011, 2013 and 2015 to find out whether the land and apartments discussed on the recordings were properly listed.
It is yet to be proven, however, that Mr. Sokha actually made any of the purchases that are discussed in the recordings, a possibility Mr. Yentieng seemed to ignore.
Mr. Yentieng acknowledged that as an elected member of parliament, Mr. Sokha enjoys immunity from prosecution, but added that his immunity could be lifted down the road.
“Let’s be clear that it will be impossible in this case to detain, arrest and prosecute, so we have no way to send forces to arrest him,” he said.
“So when the Anti-Corruption Unit starts investigating and collecting documents…we will not be able to press charges against His Excellency Kem Sokha. But the unit will send a proposal to the prosecutor to review the evidence we collect.”
The chairman said the prosecutor could ultimately ask the National Assembly, via the Ministry of Justice, to lift his immunity.
Mr. Yentieng also warned those criticizing his handling of the case that their complaints would only make things worse for Mr. Sokha.
“If you want to make [the case] burn down, please stoke it more,” he said. “The more you curse us, the hotter it makes our engine, the more it affects Kem Sokha.”
Srey Chamroeun, the student leading the public campaign against Mr. Sokha, said he welcomed the investigation, but vowed to keep pressing the CNRP vice president to explain himself.
“We still demand that Kem Sokha come out and be responsible before the law,” he said.
Spokesmen for the CNRP could not be reached for comment. The party has adopted a policy of ignoring political provocations since the scandal surfaced.