Offshore Holdings Are Up for Grabs, Justice Minister Jokes

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana quipped over the weekend that anyone who can find his offshore financial holdings—revealed earlier this month as part of the “Panama Papers” leak—can keep the money, according to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.

“His Excellency Ang Vong Vathana, justice minister, announced that if he has money in offshore companies, anyone who finds it can take it all,” Mr. Kanharith wrote on his Facebook page after a Sunday night dinner date with Mr. Vong Vathana.

“If they don’t want to take it, he will give all the money to Kantha Bopha hospital,” he added.

Mr. Vong Vathana purchased $5,000 worth of shares in the shadowy British Virgin Islands-based company RCD International Limited, and was one of just five shareholders, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has analyzed more than 11 million documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

RCD existed between 2007 and 2010, when it was scrubbed from a Hong Kong-based registry; its purpose remains unknown.

While holdings in offshore companies can be used for legal purposes, they are often used to launder money or evade taxes.

Mr. Vong Vathana has outright denied any involvement with RCD, telling local news website Thmey Thmey that he would sue the ICIJ if it did not produce “substantiated proof” of its claims.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, who has previously said the case should be investigated by the Anti-Corruption Unit, said on Sunday that he planned to send a request this month to National Assembly President Heng Samrin asking him to summon the justice minister before parliament to explain himself.

“Other governments around the world, including the British prime minister, has to face this during Question Time, so why not Ang Vong Vathana?” he said, referring to revelations that British Prime Minister David Cameron benefitted financially from his father’s Panama-based business.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said on Monday that he was not aware of plans to call the minister for questioning, but that he was convinced of his innocence.

“I believe him, that he did not have money in the company,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)

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