Customs Official Arrested Over Bribery Claims

An official from the Finance Ministry’s department of customs and excise was in custody at the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU)’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Friday night after being arrested on suspicion of pocketing kickbacks from companies.

ACU Chairman Om Yentieng said on Friday that Ung Chea Veng, head of the department’s non-garment investment bureau, was arrested at a Phnom Penh hotel on Wednesday on suspicion of taking “illegal money” and sent to the municipal court for questioning on Friday.

Motorists drive past the Phnom Penh headquarters of the Finance Ministry's customs and excise department on Friday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Motorists drive past the Phnom Penh headquarters of the Finance Ministry’s customs and excise department on Friday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“We detained him because he was caught red-handed after we found that he took money from a few companies which was illegal money,” Mr. Yentieng said.

“After questioning, he was detained at about 7 p.m. on the same day,” he said, declining to name the hotel where Mr. Chea Veng was arrested.

Mr. Chea Veng was put under surveillance after numerous foreign companies lodged complaints with the ACU accusing the bureau chief of soliciting bribes, the ACU chief explained.

“We followed him for a long time,” he said.

Mr. Yentieng declined to say how much money Mr. Chea Veng allegedly took or what he was offering in exchange.

“I don’t want to talk about the amount. Anyway, even if a person takes 100 riel illegally, they have to be arrested,” he said.

Other officials at the customs department are also under investigation for similar crimes, Mr. Yentieng said, declining to identify the individuals.

“We have some more information,” he said. “We are observing.”

Ouch Anutaro, chief of legal affairs at the department, said that to his knowledge Mr. Chea Veng’s hands were clean.

“He never made mistakes in the past. His unit is in charge of issuing permission or documents to all companies, just not garment factories,” Mr. Anutaro said, adding: “If [the ACU] is taking action, there could be a reason for it.”

Ly Sophanna, a spokesman for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said Mr. Chea Veng was sent back to the ACU’s headquarters on Friday and that questioning would continue on Saturday.

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