Canadia CEO Sheds Light on $2.3M Embezzlement Scheme

The four people charged with embezzling more than $2 million from Canadia Bank PLC were able to do so by creating fictitious bank accounts and using fraudulent credit cards to withdraw money from those accounts, the bank’s CEO said Monday, the first time Canadia has commented on the theft since it was reported earlier this month.

Canadia CEO Michael Lor said the group, which included two Ca­nadia employees, one of whom was head of the bank’s credit card department, had created fictitious accounts with high credit limits by inventing fake customers and signing for the accounts and withdrawals.

They then used credit cards to withdraw between $2.3 million and $2.5 million over a period of six months, with the larger transactions taking place during the last three months of the scam.

“They created around five fake accounts and input a limit on those accounts. They were able to do this because they were Canadia employees,” Mr. Lor said in an interview at the bank’s headquarters in Phnom Penh.

In early October, the two former employees, Yeth Sopheaktra, 30, and Leng Suntry, were arrested and charged for their roles in the scam, as well as Ms. Sopheaktra’s boyfriend, Sun Saonin, 33, and her mother, Chak Kimheng, 59.

The incident has been described as the largest fraud case to hit Cambodia’s banking sector.

Police reports state that Ms. Sopheaktra was the mastermind behind the theft. She was a senior manager in the bank’s credit card section, while Mr. Suntry was the head of the section. According to Mr. Lor, both employees had worked at Canadia for about 10 years.

Mr. Lor said that no customer accounts had been affected by the scam since the thieves had created new accounts under fake names with set limits. “No customer accounts were affected at all,” he said.

He said the scam went on for months because the credit card department always approved the signatures on the accounts.

“On the surface, the documents were in order, but our internal system picked up all the transactions. The withdrawal trends started small and then kept getting larger and more erratic,” which was then identified as an irregularity in the bank’s internal security system, he said.

Mr. Lor said the stolen money had been invested in “various assets” in Cambodia, though he remained certain the bank would retrieve the cash.

“We are confident that this money will be eventually recovered,” he said.

The four people in the case are charged with committing, or be­ing an accomplice to theft and the use of fraudulent documents.

Neang Hai, the lawyer for Mr. Saonin, said that the court had not yet set a trial date for the suspects.

Mr. Lor said Canadia was taking more security precautions in the wake of the theft.

“The integrity of our employees clearly failed…. We are going beyond closing just this loophole and looking to engage people with stronger expertise to review our current credit card processes and other weaknesses,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Eang Mengleng)

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Yeth Sopheaktra and Leng Suntry were managers in Canadia Bank’s credit and loans department. They were managers in the bank’s credit card department.

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