Probe Into Justice Minister Possible, ACU Chief Says

The Anti-Corruption Unit has not yet opened an investigation into Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana’s secretive offshore holdings, but the unit’s chairman said on Thursday that a future probe could not be ruled out.

“It’s not just wet—it’s saturated,” ACU Chairman Om Yentieng said wryly of widespread media coverage of news that Mr. Vong Vathana had been a stakeholder in a now-defunct company based in the British Virgin Islands. “We have heard it.”

The justice minister’s shares in RCD International Limited—for which he allegedly paid $5,000—were revealed as part of the so-called “Panama Papers,” an unprecedented data leak of more than 11 million documents from the Panamabased law firm Mossack Fonseca. The documents have been analyzed by hundreds of journalists working for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

“Based on the law, it’s possible” that the ACU could investigate, Mr. Yentieng said on Thursday during a press conference to address separate corruption claims against Suth Dina, Cambodia’s ambassador to South Korea.

“Do not think we don’t work on these things. We do so regularly,” he said, adding that the veracity of the information in the leaked documents would have to be determined before an official investigation was opened.

“We cannot use the word ‘investigation’ if there is another step to take,” he said. “It is the news. How true is it? Can we trust it?” he said.

“The goal is to look and decide whether this issue needs to be discussed, or investigated.”

RCD International Limited existed between 2007 and 2010, and while the purpose of the company is unknown, offshore companies are frequently used for money laundering and tax evasion purposes.

A receptionist at Hong Kong-based Corporate Management Services Limited, which registered RCD in 2007, according to the ICIJ, said on Tuesday that his company had a policy of destroying the records of deactivated firms.

“If it’s struck off, we don’t have it. We don’t hold the records anymore. It would not be related to us,” he said, declining to give his name due to the sensitive nature of the case.

In a statement on Monday, the Justice Ministry flatly denied that Mr. Vong Vathana had any involvement in RCD, calling all claims to the contrary “a lie.” In an interview on the same day, Mr. Vong Vathana threatened to sue the ICIJ.

Justice Ministry spokesman San Sorphoan, who was fielding calls for Mr. Vong Vathana on Thursday, said only that he had “not yet received evidence” from the ICIJ and would wait before pursuing legal action.

This week has seen at least one high-profile politician felled by the blow of the data leak, with Iceland’s prime minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, stepping down on Tuesday after it emerged that an offshore company under his control was attempting to claim money on behalf of three failed banks.

sokhean@cambodiadaily.com, taylor@cambodiadaily.com

Related Stories

Exit mobile version