Foreign Ministry Official on Trial Admits to Taking Bribes

A Foreign Affairs Ministry official on trial for the misappropriation of public funds admitted on Monday to taking bribes to expedite the processing of garment export permits, but told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court that he did not ask for the money.

Ea Se, a bureau chief at a ministry department that manages Cambodia’s relations with Australia and New Zealand, was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) in March and charged a few days later.

During Monday’s trial, the plaintiff—whose identity is being hidden by the ACU and the court—said she first approached Mr. Se for an export permit in October after the garment factory where she works received an inquiry from a customer in Brazil for an order of sportswear.

She said Mr. Se initially demanded $350 to process the permit, which should have been free of charge, and eventually settled for $300, but upped his price when she returned with more orders.

“Se called me and said the documents were very complicated, and he said he needed $600 or $700 to process them,” she said.

The plaintiff said they eventually settled on $1,000 for the second batch of permits when she went to his office on March 31, the day of his arrest.

Mr. Se admitted to demanding the first bribe, but insisted that the second was unsolicited.

“I had no intention to get the money, but they left the money for me to process” the permits, he said of the second bribe. “Over the phone, I refused and said I would not do it, but they kept coming again and again.”

Mr. Se said he was arrested with the money in-hand when he went to deliver the permits to the ministry’s legal department.

Neither the name of the factory nor the buyer were revealed during the hearing. It is unclear why the court is not also prosecuting the plaintiff for paying the bribes.

Presiding Judge Veng Hour said he would announce a verdict on July 27.

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