A former acting bureau director at the Finance Ministry confessed in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday to losing over $600,000 in public funds at the NagaWorld casino after embezzling the money from the National Bank of Cambodia with forged checks.
Kuy Dara, an acting bureau director within the ministry’s industry and finance department, said he had withdrawn innumerable checks signed by department director Mey Vann between January 2009 and April 2010 on which he increased the payable amount and had even forged the director’s signature twice.
“I recognize that I really did this and that the money was about $606,000,” said Mr Dara, adding that he was incapable of paying the money back.
“I took the money to go gambling at NagaWorld and I lost,” he said.
According to a statement from Mr Vann which was read out in court, the department director lodged a complaint against Mr Dara after learning of the altered checks while performing the department’s annual audit.
“I request the court to please punish the suspect according to the law and demand $606,000 from him,” Mr Vann said in his statement.
Koam Kanitha, deputy director of the National Bank’s operations department, confirmed that Mr Dara had made numerous visits to the accounting office during the period in question and that the checks he cashed never raised suspicions.
“We did not know the checks were forged, and we were not accomplices,” she said.
Deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot said he did not fault the National Bank but suspected that more people were involved in both forging the checks and spending the ill-gotten funds.
“We ought to find out who else signed the checks,” he said.
Mr Dara’s lawyer, Ouk Siroeun, said he did not believe his client acted alone, that some of Mr Dara’s colleagues must have known at the very least what he was doing and turned a blind eye. He also noted that Mr Dara’s was not a violent crime.
“I request that the court please give my client the minimum punishment,” he said.
Presiding Judge Ke Sakhorn said he would announce his judgment on Dec 16.