Assistant at Government Investment Body Arrested in Graft Case

An assistant at the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) was arrested last week and charged over the weekend for allegedly demanding bribes while processing applications, a court official said on Sunday.

Chhim Pesith, an assistant to an unspecified deputy secretary-general at the CDC, which approves foreign investment projects, was arrested on Thursday and placed in provisional detention as soon as he was charged on Saturday with misappropriation of public funds, said Y Rin, who heads the Phnom Penh Municipal Court secretariat.

cam photo CDC
The Council for the Development of Cambodia building in Phnom Penh (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“Chhim Pesith was charged on Sunday by the investigating judge, Horm Sokhemrin, and he was detained at Prey Sar prison,” he said.

Officials at the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), which made the arrest, could not be reached on Sunday.

But in a statement posted to its website on Saturday, the ACU said Mr. Pesith had refused to file applications for companies until they paid him.

“[T]he unit has received information that the official working for the CDC has created difficulties for national and international investors by demanding money to provide services,” it said.

“Chhim Pesith would recognize the documents as correct and agree to stamp them if he received money from the applicants. He would always complain that the documents were wrong if the applicants refused to pay him.”

The statement did not say how much money Mr. Pesith had demanded for processing the paperwork or for how long he had been doing so.

A CDC official was arrested over similar allegations in May.

The ACU added that the case was a blight on the reputation of the entire government. Cambodia is regularly ranked by Transparency International among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Created in 2010 and placed in the hands of chairman Om Yentieng, a close associate of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the ACU has done little to change that perception. It is currently investigating opposition leader Kem Sokha over corruption allegations involving an alleged mistress that many see as politically motivated.

Chou Ngeth, a senior consultant at Emerging Markets Consulting, said his clients had been complaining about corruption at the CDC for the past two or three years and that he welcomed Thursday’s arrest.

“I think the arrest of the CDC official is a good signal to other government officials to stop taking money from national and international investors; it will warn other officials who are demanding money to provide services,” he said.

Contacted by telephone, CDC Secretary-General Sok Chenda Sophea declined to speak with a reporter.

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