Prison Guard Charged Over Attempt to Extort CEO

A guard at the Kandal Provincial Prison who allegedly colluded with an inmate in an attempt to extort $50,000 from the CEO of the Singapore-based development firm HLH Group was charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sunday, officials said.

Leng Sokleang, 28, was arrested by military police in Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Krom commune on Friday when he attempted to withdraw a portion of the money from a Wing mobile-payment kiosk, Khim Daravuth, deputy director of the Phnom Penh military police’s investigations department, said Sunday.

“We arrested Mr. Sokleang when he tried to withdraw $10,000 from Wing, and sent him to court,” Mr. Daravuth said.

Mr. Daravuth said his department received a complaint on Tuesday from HLH Group CEO and executive deputy chairman Johnny Ong Bee Huat, who told authorities that a man had called him and threatened to kill him unless he paid $50,000.

Mr. Daravuth said police followed up on Mr. Ong’s claim and, in their investigation, discovered that the prison guard had purchased a mobile phone and three SIM cards for Sao Kosal, an inmate.

Mr. Kosal, using a telephone number he received from Sok Thim, a cleaner at HLH’s Phnom Penh office, called Mr. Ong and threatened to kill him, Mr. Daravuth added.

“Military police figured out the connection between Mr. Kosal and Mr. Sokleang,” he said, adding that police received a tip after Mr. Sokleang attempted to withdraw part of the $50,000 on Friday.

Mr. Ong could not be reached Sunday.

HLH Group is the parent company of HLH Agri International, which is the operator of Phnom Penh-based HLH Agriculture Cambodia.

In June, HLH Group announced that a subsidiary, D’Lotus Development, had plans to purchase 1.35 hectares of land in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood from Shukaku Inc., a private firm that in 2007 won a 99-year lease for 133 hectares in Boeng Kak, which has led to the eviction of some 3,000 families.

Khieu Phalla, deputy prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said he charged Mr. Sokleang Sunday with extortion and “threat accompanied by extortion,” and sent the case to Investigating Judge Y Thavrak.

The charges carry a combined prison term of between two-and-a- half and seven years. Mr. Phalla declined to comment on the charges that Mr. Kosal, the prisoner, might face.

Judge Thavrak could not be reached.

Mr. Daravuth, the investigating military police officer, said he is waiting on orders from the municipal court to transport Mr. Kosal from the Kandal Provincial Prison to the Phnom Penh courthouse for questioning.

Provincial prison director Chap Sineang said Mr. Kosal has served 12 years of a 38-year sentence for a string of at least seven robberies.

Mr. Sineang added that he has long struggled to keep guards from bringing banned goods, such as mobile phones, into the facility for use by inmates.

“Mr. Sokleang is a prison guard, and I do not allow them to do that,” he said, referring to the delivery of a mobile phone and SIM cards to an inmate.

Wing CEO Anthony Perkins said Sunday via email that while he could not provide specifics about the extortion case, “any extortionist using Wing must be extremely amateur.”

“With a full audit trail of its transactions available, often supported by GPS location tracking & CCTV footage, Wing is the last place any fraudsters should look to for such transactions.”

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