Finance Minister Keat Chhon has suspended more than a dozen customs officials for their irregular activities and asked for a temporary halt on importing goods to duty free shops, officials confirmed Wednesday.
Pen Simon, Director of the Customs Department for the Finance Ministry, said eight officials at domestic Tum Nup Rolock port in Sihanoukville were temporarily transferred to the department’s Phnom Penh office and three others at the Kompong Cham office were moved to ministry headquarters this week.
“Decisions follow the internal penalty rule. It’s not serious at all. It’s just a temporary transfer,” Pen Simon said, downplaying the suspensions.
Puth Chandarith, second vice governor of Sihanoukville, confirmed one deputy chief of the domestic port and seven other staff were suspended. He said he had not given any specific reasons for the suspension, but he doubted they could have neglected inspection activities and allowed smuggling.
Pen Simon admitted the transfer to the ministry headquarters of the three Kompong Cham customs officials was a worse penalty than the transfer to the Phnom Penh office. But he refused to mention why: “I can not tell you.”
In the meantime, several duty free shops in Cambodia have been temporarily shut down by an order from Keat Chhon, Pen Simon said. The temporary closure came after the department discovered several companies owning duty free shops reported importing fewer goods than received, and re-exported the excess to other countries, Pen Simon said.
Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen called the customs department “the king of corruption” at the first government-investors forum and pledged to dismiss officials who are found taking bribes.