ACU Calls in Officials Over Pepper Shakedown

Two forestry administration officials who were arrested and detained in Kratie province for extorting money from pepper farmers were transferred to Phnom Penh on Tuesday upon the request of the Anti-Corruption Unit, officials said.

The two officials, Minh Sitha and Sorn Narin, were arrested by police in a Kratie City restaurant on Sunday after a complaint from farmers that the pair had demanded money to allow them to transport their black pepper harvest from their farm, Kratie City police chief Sean Sopheak said.

“We arrested the two forestry officers, who are forestry administrators in Prek Prasap district…on August 17 because of a complaint to the police from the victims…over corruption due to their threats to extort $1,500 from the victims,” he said.

The farmers had purchased a plot of land in Prek Prasap district, the police chief said, where they had grown and harvested 700 black pepper plants and were about to take the mature berries to market.

Mr. Sopheak said the two officials had originally been called to the restaurant in Kratie City only for questioning. After it was established they were using their positions to extort money, police called the ACU in Phnom Penh.

“First we invited both forestry officials for questioning but did not arrest them, but after they were connected to corruption, we reported to the ACU,” Mr. Sopheak said.

The ACU requested the police transfer Mr. Sitha and Mr. Narin to Phnom Penh and they arrived at the ACU’s headquarters on Norodom Boulevard at 8 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

“Now they are in the ACU office for the continuation of the processing of their case related to their acts,” he said.

ACU vice chairman Chhay Savuth said by telephone that the case was being directly handled by ACU chairman Om Yentieng and declined to comment on the matter.

Mr. Yentieng could not be reached for comment.

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