The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday heard the case of a member of Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s cabinet who was charged with fraud for accepting $38,000 from the representative of a Taiwanese national in exchange for citizenship documents that were never delivered.
Suong Veasna, a colonel in the National Police, told the court that he had agreed in 2011 to make Hu Yen, who holds both Taiwanese and Canadian citizenship, a Cambodian citizen, as he had done numerous times with Chinese businessmen, but unexpectedly ran into problems when he sent the paperwork to be processed.
Presiding Judge Kor Vandy said Mr. Veasna abused his position in the Ministry of Interior to defraud the plaintiff, Taing Hengsear, who had paid the money on Mr. Yen’s behalf.
“The court is hearing this case after you were charged with fraud because you used your title as the advisor to the Interior Minister to take $38,000 from the victim,” Judge Vandy told Mr. Veasna.
“I did not defraud the victim and I did take $38,000 from Mr. Yen to process his citizenship,” Mr. Veasna said, explaining that when the application was rejected, he offered to return the money to Mr. Yen.
Nonetheless, deputy prosecutor Var Sakda recommended that Mr. Veasna be charged with fraud—punishable by six months to three years in prison and up to a $1,500 fine—and chided him for not respecting the government’s adherence to the One China policy.
“You must know that the government does not accept the Taiwanese as independent,” Ms. Sakda told Mr. Veasna.
Mr. Hengsear, the plaintiff, told the court that in 2011 he had agreed to pay $38,000 up front and $10,000 upon delivery for Mr. Yen’s citizenship documents. In 2012, he checked on the status of the documents and was told they were being held up in the Royal Cabinet.
Mr. Hengsear said he is demanding $20,000 in damages on top of the $38,000 owed to him.
Judge Vandy said the court would hand down its verdict on July 1.