Customs Must Release Donations: US Senator

A US senator has called on the Cambodian Ambassador to the US to help gain the release of donated football jerseys and soccer balls that have reportedly been held by customs in Phnom Penh for over a year, The New York Daily News reported Tuesday.

The shipment was donated to an unnamed Cambodian orphanage by a New York-based group, Brook­lyn Bridge to Cambodia, and arrived in Phnom Penh in October 2006, the newspaper reported.

The group alleged that customs officials have demanded between $650 and $1,560 as duty on the sportswear and equipment—a figure more than double the actual value of the donation, the newspaper reported.

Chuck Schumer, a Democratic Senator representing New York, wrote to Cambodian Ambassador Sereywath Ek asking for help.

“I strongly urge you to assist Brooklyn Bridge to Cambodia in having their shipment released from the port to the orphanage,” Schumer was quoted as saying in the Daily News.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith wrote by e-mail Tuesday that he believed the allegations to be false.

“[I]f this so-called Brooklyn Bridge to Cambodia sent a gift to an orphanage in Cambodia, it can ask the Ministry of Social Affairs or the director of the targeted institution to intervene with the customs department,” he wrote.

Customs and Excise Department Deputy Director Kun Nhem said he was unaware of the case, adding that groups donating gifts to Cam­bodia can easily apply for a duty and tax exemption.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said he did not have specific de­tails on the case.

Contact information for Brooklyn Bridge to Cambodia was not available Tuesday.


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