Kompong Cham Officials Accused of Extortion

The Anti-Corruption Unit revealed Monday that the director of Kompong Cham provincial Treasury Department Kol Thearin and officials under her are being investigated for allegedly embezzling money from local development projects and extorting bribes from developers, according to a statement from the ACU.

ACU chairman Om Yientieng wrote to Ms. Thearin on March 14 informing her it had received a complaint in December claiming she and provincial Treasury Department officials were demanding kickbacks from project developers, according to the statement posted on the ACU’s website on Monday.

Among the various alleged irregularities is that the department set up its own working group to join the bidding process for development contracts.

“The Kompong Cham Provincial Treasury [is alleged to have] created its own working group in order to join almost all bidding processes for development projects for all villages, communes and districts, aiming to demand tea money ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 [per project],” the statement said.

“If the project owners refused, they would then face difficulties from the treasury department (especially from Mr. Si Than),” the statement added, without specifying particular projects. In a separate statement, Mr. Than is identified as a deputy director of the provincial treasury department.

Department officials are also accused of “deducting money for administrative fees in advance of work commencing in communes and districts,” demanding between $100 and $150 for local renovation and construction projects.

Also posted on the ACU website was a letter of defense from Ms. Thearin, who denied any wrongdoing and said the allegations were made for political gain.

“On behalf of management leaders, I would like to clarify the first point that the provincial treasury department does not create any working team to attend bidding processes,” her letter, dated March 21, says.

“The allegations of $2,000 to $3,000 extortions is just a way to defame treasury leaders and officials,” she said.

ACU vice-chairman Chhay Savuth said that posting the response of the accused was not an indication that the case had been closed but to show the public that the case is being processed, with both plaintiff and accused invited to submit evidence.

A second letter signed by Mr. Yentieng dated February 3 was posted to the ACU website asking Mao Socheatra, director of the Ministry of Tourism’s personnel department, to respond to accusations that he extorted between $300 and $500 from directors and deputy directors of regional tourism departments prior to a reshuffling of civil servants in June 2013.

Mr. Socheatra responded briefly by declaring the accusations “untrue” and “incorrect.”

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