Two men, including an official from the Interior Ministry, were recently arrested for attempting to extort money from a foreign mining firm looking to invest in Pailin municipality, Om Yentieng, chairman of the government’s anti-corruption committee, said Friday.
Speaking at a press conference at the Council of Ministers, Om Yentieng said Sri Muoyheang, CDG Company manager, and Yim Neang, a police official at the Interior Ministry’s International Relations Bureau, were arrested Aug 3 for trying to extract $380,000 from the unidentified firm and are being detained in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison.
Om Yentieng said the men were allegedly demanding money so they could conduct an environmental impact assessment for the foreign firm as well as bribe government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“[The money] was to exchange for the company to have a business license. If the company did not pay the [Environment] Ministry would stop the investment,” Om Yentieng said of the duo’s alleged plan.
Om Yentieng said that Yim Neang told the company $50,000 would go to the Ministry of Environment, $100,000 to Hun Sen, $25,000 to Interior Minister Sar Kheng and $15,000 to the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
“[The company] had no policy to pay bribes to anyone,” Om Yentieng said.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has evidence against the pair, Om Yentieng said, including phone records, mobile phone text messages, e-mails and documents. He added that the two face 5 to 10 years in prison.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak confirmed that Yim Neang worked for the ministry but said that the ministry had no connection to his allegedly illegal activities.
Yin Wengka, attorney for the suspects, said his clients were not involved in any extortion scheme and had only informed the firm of how much an impact assessment would cost. “If just studying a project will land you in jail, we won’t have anybody wanting to study any projects,” he said.