The Ministry of Interior has ordered National Police to investigate a scam in which unidentified callers claimed to be senior officials at the ministry and the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) in an attempt to extort money from district governors, according to a letter issued on April 1.
The letter, which was sent to all provincial governors, stated that two district governors, one in Battambang province and another in Kompong Chhnang province, received phone calls last month from men claiming to be Interior Ministry secretary of state Sak Setha and ACU chairman Om Yentieng.
According to the letter, the callers “accused those governors of committing corruption, requiring the governors to send money by Wing or another way to the extortionists in exchange for not removing them from their position and to avoid arrest by the ACU.”
“The Ministry of Interior has assigned the National Police Commissioner to investigate those people,” it said, also telling provincial governors to remain alert.
Mr. Setha said on Sunday that the callers had pretended to be him in an attempt to extort $1,000 from Pich Malai, governor of Rokha Kiri district in Battambang, and $1,500 from Yin Saven, governor of Cholkiri district in Kompong Chhnang. Both governors refused to pay and reported the incident to the ministry, he said.
“They used my name for the two cases and linked the case to the ACU to extort money from the governors,” Mr. Setha said, adding that he believed the two instances were connected and that National Police already had clues as to identity of the callers.
Mr. Saven said he had received two phone calls on the evening of March 4 from two different men, threatening to have him arrested if he did not pay them to cover up a corruption case filed with the ACU.
“A man called me and identified himself as His Excellency Sak Setha,” he said. “He told me that villagers had filed a complaint against me for corruption by signing papers to sell their land.”
Mr. Saven said he had told the man he had never been involved in such a dispute, at which point the man said a complaint had already been filed with the ACU.
“If you don’t want this case to reach Kompong Chhnang governor Chhuor Chandoeun and Samdech Kralahom [Interior Minister Sar Kheng] you should pay, and His Excellency Om Yentieng will call you,” Mr. Saven recalled the man saying.
Shortly after, he said, a man called him claiming to be Mr. Yentieng.
“I am Om Yentieng. Your name is on a blacklist. To finish this case, what will you do? Yesterday you were supposed to be handcuffed,” Mr. Saven recalled the man saying.
The district governor said the man asked for $1,500 to be sent through Wing, a money transfer service, or to have a family member deliver it to Phnom Penh.
Mr. Malai, the Rokha Kiri governor, and National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith could not be reached for comment.