Electricite du Cambodge officials have filed a complaint in Municipal Court detailing a little more than $830,000 lost by the government electric company to one of its distributors, who was allegedly reselling about $20,000 of state electricity a month.
The formal estimate, compiled from investigations into the business dealings of 15 private companies, is the first step in trying to recover the missing money, EdC inspections Chief Ham You said last week during an interview.
All of the companies that allegedly owe money to the EdC were connected with Chea Rithy, a former EdC distributor who is being held mostly responsible for the loss of money. Chea Rithy, owner of an electrical supply company of the same name, was jailed with two other businessmen Feb 16 and charged with stealing state property.
According to court officials last week, Chea Rithy remains in jail despite attempts made earlier this year to seek bail.
Three EdC officials also have been suspended in connection with the case, pending further investigation.
Ham You said he forwarded his report to EdC Deputy Director Chea Sun Hel. The report was then recently sent to the courts, according to EdC Director General Tan Kim Vinn and court prosecutor Uk Savuth.
“The court has a right to force the suspect to pay back all of the EdC’s money,” Ham You said.
But he appeared hesitant to say that the bulk of the money would be returned to the EdC, saying that those suspected of colluding with the electricity thieves are often protected.
“My officials have a very difficult time investigating, when they go to talk with suspects they discover the suspects have friends —generals or other government officials. I know a lot of things here but if I investigate I will become isolated,” he said.
“I don’t understand—in other countries a [civil court] can force officials to acknowledge wrongdoing,” he said.
While EdC officials continue to creep forward with their investigation into electricity theft, their efforts have been repeatedly hampered by allegations of corruption within their own ranks.
At least two previous attempts to uncover problems at the troubled EdC failed in 1998 and 1999, officials said last month, because some government investigators took bribes from the EdC.
Chea Rithy’s arrest and the suspension of the three EdC officials earlier this year marked the first concrete progress made by investigators, who Ham You said have tried repeatedly to find the source of the huge monthly losses of money at the EdC.