Customs Official Jailed After Arrest Over Bribery Claims

An official at the Finance Ministry’s customs and excise department has been jailed on bribery charges following his arrest by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) last week on suspicion of taking kickbacks from foreign companies.

Ung Chea Veng, chief of the department’s non-garment investment bureau, was charged at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Saturday morning, court spokesman Ly Sophanna said on Sunday.

After questioning Mr. Chea Veng and reviewing the documents and evidence submitted by the ACU, a deputy prosecutor charged the bureau chief with misappropriation of public funds, Mr. Sophanna said, adding that an investigating judge confirmed the charge and sent Mr. Chea Veng to Prey Sar prison to await trial.

The crime is punishable by two to five years in prison and a fine of between 4 and 10 million riel, or about $1,000 to $2,500.

Mr. Chea Veng was arrested at a hotel in Phnom Penh on Wednesday by ACU officials, who caught him “red-handed” after receiving multiple complaints accusing him of demanding bribes from foreign companies, ACU Chairman Om Yentieng said on Friday.

Mr. Yentieng declined to say how much money Mr. Chea Veng had allegedly taken or what he was offering in exchange for the cash.

Mr. Sophanna said on Sunday, however, that the bureau chief had requested unofficial payments from companies as a prerequisite for processing paperwork necessary for importing equipment into the country.

“I can only tell you that the charged person extorted money in exchange for paperwork to import equipment,” he said. “As for the amount of money, we have not received details yet.”

Mr. Chea Veng’s arrest follows that of Lay Tharoat, an official at the Council for the Development of Cambodia who was jailed in May for allegedly taking a $1,000 bribe to produce a tax-related form for a private company.

And in April, Ea Se, a bureau chief at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, was charged with bribery for soliciting extra money to process paperwork for a foreign firm.

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