A Singaporean man and a deputy director of the international gateway department at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications were arrested Tuesday for illegally setting up a satellite system and stealing phone lines from the government.
The 18 telephone lines allegedly set up by the suspects did not go through the state’s gateway, but were connected instead to a satellite system they illegally installed, Telecommunications Minister So Khun charged Wednesday.
The ministry has not yet calculated how much money it lost because of the illegal phone lines, which had been in operation since the end of January, So Khun said in a phone interview.
“I think the state has lost a lot of money because the users of the illegal satellite don’t pay the bills to us,” So Khun said.
The ministry and police officials said they suspect that there are two or three other similar illegal phone operations, and they are under investigation.
The two suspects set up the illegal phone lines and the satellite dish at a Phnom Penh hotel, Lek Vannak, deputy chief of municipal justice police, said during a press conference Thursday. The hotel owner is under investigation to see if he was involved in the scam, authorities said.
“If you are a house owner, you cannot say you don’t know what’s happening in your house,” So Khun said.
Pannire Selvam, 37, and Seam Bunthy, a ministry deputy director, were paraded in front of reporters by authorities but declined to comment.
Seam Bunthy acquired legal licenses for seven phone lines, said Touch Heng, director for the Telecommuications Ministry’s domestic communication department. Seam Bunthy and Selvam then used equipment to split the phone lines to add 18 more to the system. The 18 phone lines went through the illegal satellite.
The suspects charged less than the Ministry of Telecommunications rate of $5 a minute for international calls, but authorities would not specify the amount.
Lek Vannak said the court would be notified of the arrests today.