The mastermind behind a $2.3 million embezzlement scheme at Canadia Bank recounted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday how she stole the cash over a period of six months last year in one of the banking sector’s largest-ever fraud cases.
“I withdrew $2.3 million from Canadia Bank by using five [credit] cards assigned to two people…. One time, I withdrew between $10,000 and $20,000 from the ATM, and I know I withdrew a total of more than $2.3 million between March and October 2013,” Yet Sopheaktra, 30, told the court.
Ms. Sopheaktra, who was a senior manager in Canadia’s credit card department, appeared in court Thursday with two other conspirators, Leng Suntry, 34, who was head of the bank’s credit card department, and Sun Saonin, 43, Ms. Sopheaktra’s boyfriend. All three were arrested and charged with fraud and theft in October.
Ms. Sopheaktra’s mother, Chak Kimheng, 59, was also arrested and charged, but released on bail.
Ms. Sopheaktra said she was solely responsible for the fraud. “My boyfriend and other people did not connect with this forgery and steal the money from Canadia Bank in 2013,” she said.
Ms. Sopheaktra added that at the time of the scheme she was in charge of creating credit cards at the bank, and she asked her mother as well as her mother’s friend for their identification and other documents to create the cards.
“I had forged all the documents to create the five cards, and I withdrew [money] from other bank [ATMs],” Ms. Sopheaktra said. “I remember there is a client with about $2 million in an account, and I forged the document to transfer it to my account.”
Mr. Saonin said that he knew Ms. Sopheaktra withdrew $10,000 one time and added that she called him to confess her crime before she was arrested.
“Before I was arrested, she called me and said all the things she had done with Canadia Bank in order for me to escape from arrest,” he said.
Ms. Sopheaktra said she called Mr. Saonin to warn him and tell him that she had not used the money to purchase land in Kompong Chhnang and Pursat provinces, as she had originally planned.
Mr. Suntry, who resigned from his job at Canadia Bank before he was arrested, said he was unaware of the scheme as it was happening.
“I was unaware when Ms. Sopheaktra withdrew the cash up to $2.3 million,” he said. “I did not collude with her.”
Banking experts have cast doubt on Ms. Sopheaktra’s account, noting that it is impossible to withdraw thousands of dollars from an ATM in one transaction.
In October, Canadia Bank officials said the fraud went on for months because the same people charged with monitoring credit card transactions were carrying out the fraud.
Charles Vann, executive vice president of Canadia Bank, said Thursday at the court that an information technology expert had investigated the fictitious accounts and found that Mr. Suntry was an essential figure in the embezzlement scheme, as he approved all withdrawals.
“If Mr. Suntry did not collude with Ms. Sopheaktra, the bank would not have lost $2.3 million,” he said.
The hearing is scheduled to continue on April 25.