Four More Named in Fertilizer Embezzlement Scandal

An official from Battambang province’s department of agriculture who was charged last Monday with embezzling $200,000 from the illegal sale of fertilizer donated to the poor by Japan has implicated four other officials in the case, including the son of senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, a court official said Sunday.

Seng Ratanak, 38, deputy bureau chief of the provincial department of agriculture, is alleged to have profited from the sale of 500 tons of chemical fertilizer donated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and intended to be sold at a discount to poor local farmers.

Mr. Ratanak confessed that he had sold the fertilizer at an inflated price and taken 800 million riel, or about $200,000 for himself, sending only 200 million riel, or about $50,000 to the Ministry of Commerce.

He also alleged that four other government officials had shared in the spoils of the fertilizer sale, a court official said.

“Investigating Judge Ouk So­vannarith is now investigating other suspects involved with the case, but I don’t yet know who will be summoned for questioning,” deputy prosecutor Long Hokmeng said.

Provincial Agriculture department director Chhim Vicheara and Mr. Yeap’s son, Battambang deputy provincial governor Cheam Chansorphorn were among those implicated in the affair by the suspect, the deputy prosecutor said.

Contacted Sunday, Mr. Vicheara denied the allegations against him.

“It is just an accusation, it is not true. I will not react and let the court continue its work on the case,” he said.

Mr. Chansorphorn also denied any wrongdoing and claimed it was he who had informed police after becoming aware the suspect was pocketing money from selling the fertilizer.

“I don’t know why he accused me, I am not involved. I know that he sold the fertilizer and took the money, and when I knew about the irregularity I filed a complaint with the police,” he said.

Mean Lay, Battambang provincial minor crimes police bureau chief, said Sunday that it was likely Mr. Ratanak had well-placed accomplices due to the nature of the crime and the amount of money involved, but as yet he had not heard of any other suspects being named in the case.

“Mr. Ratanak confessed to police that he acted alone, but he told the investigating judges that four other people were involved though Judge Sovannarith has not yet issued a warrant or summons, so we do not know who the suspects are,” Mr. Lay said.

Judge Sovannarith, however, denied the deputy prosecutor’s claim, saying that he only knew of Mr. Ratank’s participation in the fertilizer sale, adding that another investigating judge was also working on the case.

“I am not aware of Mr. Chansorphorn and Mr. Vicheara’s involvement with this case,” he said.

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