Official Takes $200,000 in Cash From Donated Fertilizer Sale

An official from Battambang province’s agriculture department was arrested and charged with breach of trust on Monday for allegedly pocketing some $200,000 from the sale of chemical fertilizer that was a donation from the Japanese government to Cambodia, police said Tuesday.

Seng Ratanak, 38, deputy bureau chief of Battambang’s provincial department of agriculture, was arrested after police were informed that he had been pocketing money from the sale of the fertilizer donated by the Japanese International Cooper­ation Agency (JICA) earlier this year, provincial minor crimes police bureau chief Mean Lay said.

Mr. Lay said that Mr. Ratanak had received 500 tons of chemical fertilizer from JICA to be sold at a cheap rate to local farmers in the Battambang area.

Mr. Ratanak, however, admitted to selling the fertilizer at a highly inflated price and keeping the lion’s share of the proceeds rather than forwarding them to the Ministry of Commerce as intended.

Yukiko Kitazawa, head of public relations for JICA, said that the fertilizer was donated for the food security of underprivileged farmers and totaled 650 tons.

“Police arrested Mr. Ratanak in his office after receiving a complaint from agriculture depart­ment director Chim Vichara,” Mr. Lay said.

“Mr. Ratanak confessed to police that he kept 800 million riel [about $200,000]…and sent only 200 million riel [about $50,000] to the Ministry of Commerce,” he said.

Mr. Lay added that Mr. Ratanak, rather than selling the fertilizer at budget rates to poor farmers as ordered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, had sold the goods at an inflated rate.

Battambang Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Long Hok­meng said that he had laid charges against Mr. Ratanak and passed the case to an investigating judge.

“I charged him with breach of trust and sent him to an investigative judge but I do not know if he was sent to pretrial detention,” Mr. Hokmeng said.

(Additional reporting by Matt Blomberg)

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