Assistant to Sar Kheng Convicted in Cash-for-Government Job Case

Two Year Suspended Sentence Means He Will Be Free Soon

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday convicted a former assistant to Interior Minister Sar Kheng of fraud and sentenced him to two years in prison for taking a $25,000 payment to secure a senior government position for a civil servant.

However, Tea Kimhong’s sentence was suspended by 17 months, meaning that with time spent in pre-trial detention since November, he is due for release any day now.

Judge Seng Neang said the seven months Mr Kimhong had spent in detention was enough. He also ordered Mr Kimhong to repay the $25,000 to Heng Heam, an assistant to the prosecutor at the military court, and also pay some $1,200 in damages.

Mr Heam sued Mr Kimhong in court after he handed over the large payment but his promised position – reported by local media to have been a deputy provincial governor in Pursat – never materialized.

Municipal Court Deputy prosecutor Hing Bunchea said last week that Mr Heam had not been investigated for paying a bribe in return for a government job as the payment was not a kickback but a “donation” to the Interior Ministry official.

Mr Bunchea, also in court on Friday, said that despite the fact that Mr Kimhong, a government official, offered to provide a government job to someone for personal profit, the crime did not constitute corruption.

“It was a cheating action, it was not corruption,” the deputy prosecutor said.

Interior Ministry police officer Prak Virak was also convicted of fraud in the case for assisting Mr Kimhong in the cash for position scam, and also sentenced him to a two year suspended sentence.

Despite Mr Kimhong being an assistant to the Interior Minister, he had no power to secure a position for Mr Heam but he did have influence with several senior officials, who could have been persuaded to provide a position, the prosecutor said.

According to Article 58 of the Untac code, any person who corrupts or attempts to corrupt any official performing official duties with the promise of money in exchange for a professional position is guilty of bribery and liable to one to three years in prison.

However, Mr Bunchea argued during the trial that Mr Heam thought he was donating the $25,000 to the Interior Ministry, not giving a bribe for his sought after position.

“Mr Heam was just a victim in the case,” the deputy prosecutor said.

Mr Bunchea also said that although Mr Heam claimed he paid $30,000, and Mr Kimhong claimed he received $27,000, the judge found there is only evidence that $25,000 every changed hands.

A 2007 survey published by the anti-corruption NGO Pact Cambodia found that more than 70 percent of respondents believed that people should pay to obtain a government position.

“Becoming a low-level policeman is deemed to cost about $500,” the survey stated.



Related Stories

Exit mobile version