Anti-Corruption Unit Probing 49 Officials in Extortion Case

The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) says it has opened an investigation into a suspected extortion case but urged the media to refrain from reporting on it after a list of the suspects and their phone numbers was posted online by a number of news outlets.

Contacted via text message on Monday night, ACU Chairman Om Yentieng said it was “too early to say” whether the people on the list were guilty of extortion.

He said the ACU had placed the individuals on its “gray list,” as opposed to its “black list,” without elaborating.

But Mr. Yentieng did complain that those who posted the list online had made his job much harder.

“The numbers we found are useless for us to investigate because they were revealed publicly and let the offenders evade accountability,” he said.

“The posters [of the list] should not hit the grass to disperse the snakes; they should let the ACU work on this case quietly.”

Police in Kompong Chhnang province found the list on January 26 inside a truck they pulled over on National Road 5 suspected of transporting illegally logged wood, Chin Sophat, chief of the province’s economic crime police, said on Sunday.

The truck was packed with two tables, six doors and a bed frame, all made from luxury-grade thnong, along with five pieces of m’reas prov wood, from which safrole oil—a precursor to the illegal drug Ecstasy—can be extracted.

On the list discovered with the haul were 49 police, military police and Forestry Administration officials identified by a part of their names, a phone number and a location, for example a commune, district or province.

On Tuesday, Mr. Sophat said he suspects that the people on the list were officials the driver would have to pay off while transporting his illicit cargo.

“We are guessing the people on the list were committing extortion, but we need evidence,” he said.

Mr. Sophat said a reporter at the scene when the truck was pulled over had taken a photo of the list. Before it appeared online, however, he said the officer who made the discovery, provincial serious crimes police chief Klauk Sroeung, would not show him the list when he asked to see it.

“I don’t think Mr. Sroeung hid the list because his name was on it,” Mr. Sophat said. “Maybe he just wanted to keep it for the investigation.”

Contacted Tuesday, Mr. Sroeung said he no longer had the list when Mr. Sophat asked for it because he had already passed it on to provincial governor Chhou Chandoeun.

pheap@cambodiadaily.com

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