Ministry Official Arrested for Taking Bribes From Company

A bureau chief at the Foreign Affairs Ministry will face court this weekend after being arrested by the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) on Thursday for taking bribes to process paperwork for a foreign company, according to officials.

The allegations were laid out in an internal ministry memo obtained Friday.

“Please, leaders and all officials, do not be surprised about a case in which the Anti-Corruption Unit arrested an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 31, 2016, in the morning. There is clear evidence of taking money from a foreign company for stamping documents—not involving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” read the memo, which is signed by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

“The Anti-Corruption Unit is continuing to investigate this issue,” it continued. “Please, leaders and all officials, be calm and continue your work in the spirit of responsibility.”

Pressed for details about the case on Friday, both ministry and ACU officials were tight-lipped, refusing to name the accused official or elaborate on his alleged crime.

“He was arrested about about 10 a.m. at the ministry,” said ministry spokesman Chum Sounry.

“It involves corruption and the ACU has enough evidence” to prove his guilt, he added, refusing to answer further questions.

ACU Chairman Om Yentieng would say only that, by law, the suspect had to be sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court within 48 hours of his arrest.

The ACU’s discreet handling of the bribery allegations contrasts sharply with the way it has dealt with past cases involving unsubstantiated corruption claims. In those cases, the unit published detailed but anonymous accusations against state employees accompanied by equally thorough responses by the named officials.

The discretion is also at odds with the ACU’s ongoing probe into accusations that deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha purchased land and apartments for multiple mistresses, based on leaked recordings of his alleged telephone conversations with the women. Prior to opening the investigation last week, the unit held two meetings—open to the public and members of the media—during which the recordings were discussed at length.

Son Chhay, a senior opposition lawmaker, said he put no stock in the work of the ACU, as it rarely investigated high-ranking government officials.

“I don’t pay them any attention because there are lots of corruption cases in Cambodia and powerful men are committing million-dollar corruption, but I don’t see them doing anything about it,” he said.

“We don’t pay attention because we don’t believe in their activities.”

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