Gov’t Nabs 7 in Fraudulent Passport Scam

A government crackdown on Cambodian migrants using phony passports to move to the US netted seven arrests over the weekend, including those of two high-ranking police officials, authorities said.

Police at Pochentong Airport arrested four people Friday for using other people’s passports with the suspects’ pictures on them, Pochentong Airport Police Chief Hem Theng said. Also, officials arrested a Phnom Penh municipal police officer and a high-ranking police officer in the foreign department of the Ministry of the Interior, Hem Theng said.

Both police officials were helping the four would-be migrants with the passports and aiding them in trying to get past immigration authorities, Hem Theng said.

“I was very surprised to see [him] here carrying the passports,” Hem Theng said of the foreign department police officer.

Authorities released the foreign department police officer after the man’s supervisor sent a letter promising that he would cooperate with investigators, a police official said Sunday.

The arrest of a seventh man using a phony passport on Sunday and the professional nature of the forgeries has led officials to suspect a larger-scale network with inside help in the police department that reaches even higher than the two arrested officers, Hem Theng said.

“I believe some police under me have cooperated with the businessmen” smuggling Cam­bo­dians to the US, Hem Theng said. “If there were no internal assistance, people from the outside could not do this.”

Although no one had been charged with a crime by late Sunday, Hem Theng said he hoped the government officials wouldn’t be able to escape char­ges because of their positions.

“The law does not consider who they are. When you are wrong, you must be arrested and punished according to the law,” he said.

As many as 40 Cambodians leave for the US daily, Hem Theng said. He did not know how many were doing so with fake passports.





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