Korean Puts Gov’t Office on Market for $2 Million

A Korean businessman has ob­tained a Ministry of Planning building and is selling it for nearly $2 million, following a land-swap deal which saw the 565-square-meter building traded for $10,000 and a promise to construct an alternative building.

Say Group Realty Company is selling the former Department of Science, Census and Investigations offices on Street 392 near the corner of Monivong Boulevard, for $3,500 per square meter.

Say Sopheap, the owner of Say Group Realty, said on Monday that the seller of the former government department is a Korean businessman whom he could only identify as “Mr Joo.”

Minister of Planning Chhay Than confirmed on Monday that the former government building was privatized and all department staff had been relocated. When asked for more details, the minister said “privatization has a lot of issues” and referred further questions to the committee in charge of the deal.

Sorn Sithorn, director general of the planning ministry’s National Institute of Statistics and a member of the committee involved in the deal, said a Korean purchased the building about one year ago for $10,000 and a promise to construct a new four-story building inside the Ministry of Planning’s compound.

“I have not followed whether or not [the $10,000] was already paid,” Sorn Sithorn said by telephone Monday.

Sorn Sithorn said he was not aware that any public bidding process occurred for the building, which dates back to the 1960s, but he defended the deal.

“The value [of the old building] is equal to the construction cost of the new building,” Sorn Sithorn claimed.

The Chamkar Mon district building, he added, was sold be­cause of its old age. The deal was witnessed by Finance Minis­try Secretary of State Ouk Rabun, who is in charge of all state properties, Sorn Sithorn said.

Ouk Rabun could not be reached for comment Monday.

They Kheam, director of the De­p­artment of Science, Census and In­vestigations, was also un­aware if any public bidding pro­cess occurred.

Construction has barely begun on the new department building, They Kheam said, and it is un­known when construction will be completed.

The department’s 120-member staff moved out about five months ago and is working out of temporary offices inside the ministry, he added.

Despite the old department building’s $2 million price tag, Sung Bonna of Bonna Realty said it will likely only sell for $1,800 to $2,500 per square meter, or between $1 million and $1.4 million.

Sung Bonna also estimated that it would cost no more than $200,000 to build a new department building, so the Korean bus­in­essman still stands to reap a tidy $1 million from the deal.

SRP Parliamentarian Ke Sovann­roth criticized the deal and said the government failed to conduct a pub­lic bid on the building and many other valuable state properties.

“There was never any public bidding and they never gave information to the National Assembly’s members,” she said.

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