Senior officials at Electricite du Cambodge on Thursday accused at least 10 hotels, factories and other businesses in Phnom Penh of conspiring with Chea Rithy Import Export Co to steal state electricity.
“We consider that these customers should be responsible because they signed a contract with [EdC]…not with Chea Rithy,” said Ty Norin, EdC’s deputy managing director. “The companies had full complicity with [Chea Rithy] to steal power.”
EdC officials said complaints will be filed against the companies with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as soon as EdC establishes how much money it lost in the alleged scam. A possible separate electricity stealing scheme also is being investigated, added Ty Norin.
The allegations come as EdC conducts an internal investigation in wake of the disclosure last month of a sophisticated scam allegedly operated at least in part by the Chea Rithy company.
hea Rithy, owner of an electrical supply company by the same name, and two staff members—Mean Kea and Chea Phearum—were jailed Feb 16 for allegedly stealing state electricity worth tens of thousands of dollars.
They have since been charged with stealing state property, according to Lek Vannak, chief of municipal judicial police. He said the three are currently being detained in Phnom Penh’s PJ prison.
Municipal police also have requested warrants to be issued for the arrests of Nou Sokhon, EdC’s director of distribution, and Hun Monyroth, director of EdC’s electricity sub-stations, following claims by Chea Rithy that the two officials were involved in the scam. But arrest warrants have not been issued by the courts, Lek Vannak said Thursday.
However, Nou Sokhon did appear in court Tuesday to answer questions from a court investigator, said Lek Vannak. Court officials couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
Chea Rithy’s company is being accused of taking over large Electricite du Cambodge business accounts and pocketing money that should have gone to the state-owned utility instead.
According to Ty Norin, companies had signed up with EdC to purchase electricity from the city grid at the commercial rate of 650 riel per kilowatt. However, a number of hotels, factories and other companies in the area then signed contracts with Chea Rithy who offered electricity at 500 riel per kilowatt, he said.
Chea Rithy’s company collected the 500 riel per kilowatt charge every month and tampered with EdC equipment so a lower amount of electrical consumption was reflected on EdC meters. Chea Rithy then forwarded part of the money to the EdC based on the falsified low readings, he said.
A mobile telephone company director and a hotel manager who bought electricity from Chea Rithy said Thursday they did not know the electricity they used might have been obtained fraudulently.
CamTel company director Phat Yuth said Thursday his company was completely unaware of any scheme. According to Phat Yuth, the company (018-prefix) only purchased electricity from Chea Rithy for a few months.
“We didn’t know he was cheating the government…how can we know? If we had known we would not buy it,” said Phat Yuth.
The manager of Asie Hotel on Monivong Boulevard also said he was unaware of how Chea Rithy obtained the electricity and denied that he was in any way complicit in the alleged electricity scam.
“We don’t know anything…. but if something is cheap we buy it,” said the manager, referring to the deal Chea Rithy offered.
The manager said the hotel would not pay money to the EdC, since it already has been paying $4,000 a month to Chea Rithy.