Global Fund, Gov’t to Continue Probe Into Bribes

Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) chairman Om Yentieng on Tuesday said representatives of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will visit Cambodia next week to follow up on bribery allegations against former National Malaria Center director Duong Socheat.

The allegations stem from the results of a yearslong investigation the Global Fund released in 2013 claiming that Mr. Socheat took $351,000 in bribes from a pair of overseas mosquito net providers in exchange for contracts worth $12 million, paid for with Global Fund grants.

The report on Global Fund’s investigation says the net providers confessed to paying the bribes and was accompanied by copies of emails in which Mr. Socheat instructs them on how to deposit the money.

Though the government has agreed to repay the Global Fund for the total $450,000 in bribes taken by Mr. Socheat and other officials, it has yet to press charges against a single one. Despite the evidence from the investigation, Mr. Yentieng said last year that the ACU would not be pursuing related prosecutions because the cases would not stand up in court.

On Tuesday, however, at a workshop on the ACU hosted by lawmakers at the National Assembly, Mr. Yentieng said its investigation into the allegations was not over.

In a testy exchange with opposition lawmaker Lim Kimya, who wondered why the government was paying back the bribes if it couldn’t pursue charges, Mr. Yentieng said the ACU had been working hard on the case.

“We have sent our investigators to Switzerland, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. It is not easy, the way His Excellency sits and talks politics,” Mr. Yentieng said, referring to Mr. Kimya.

The ACU chief said the Global Fund was sending representatives to Cambodia on June 5 to look into Mr. Socheat’s bank accounts.

“Next Friday, we will talk about the third case,” he said, referring to the Global Fund’s allegations against the former director. “We will check all the bank accounts of the third person, about 30 or 40.”

In its 2013 report, the Global Fund also accused a former procurement officer at the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD Control (NCHADS) of taking bribes to manipulate bids, and the NGO MediCam of misusing $21,000.

On Tuesday, Mr. Yentieng said the ACU would not be pursuing those cases because the first involved an NGO and the second an employee on contract. The ACU’s purview, he said, was strictly civil servants.

“The law does not allow me to arrest them,” he said. “I don’t own these cases. It’s not corruption; it’s breach of trust.”

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