Graft, US Law Concerns for US Businesses

Corruption tops the list of concerns facing American businessmen working in Cambodia, according to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Asean released last week.

The 17 businessmen surveyed also cited a lack of trained personnel, inadequate infrastructure and the difficulty of obtaining necessary goods.

According to Bretton Sciaroni, the chamber’s president, the reason that over two thirds of American businessmen working in Cambodia say they are dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied with the amount of corruption in Cambodia has to do with US law.

“The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is often referred to as the toughest anti-corruption legislation on the planet,” Mr Sciaroni said yesterday, citing a US law that penalizes bribes to foreign officials by companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

In 2008, the global manufacturing giant Siemens was found guilty of violating the FCPA by bribing officials in twelve countries, including Venezuela, Argentina and Iraq. The company was ordered to pay $450 million to the US Department of Justice and $350 million to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The American Chamber has run well-attended seminars at the US Embassy over the last two years during which businessmen have learned about the US anti-bribery statute from American prosecutors and consultants, Mr Sciaroni said, adding that a recent meeting was attended by Om Yentieng, head of the government’s new anticorruption body.

“He sat and took notes like everyone else,” Mr Sciaroni said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the government was making an increased effort to implement its own anticorruption laws. According to Mr Siphan, a government official whose name he could not recall was jailed yesterday on corruption charges.

“We need to be more transparent, not just for business but because it is good for our society,” said Mr Siphan.

The business survey was not all negative. Roughly three quarters of respondents said they were satisfied with the attitude toward US businessmen in Cambodia and 68 percent said they were contented with the availability of low-cost labor.

 

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