Senior Police Official Denies Corruption

The deputy Phnom Penh police chief in charge of immigration has denied accusations of overseeing a network of corrupt officers who regularly extorted foreigners running businesses in the city, according to a statement released by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) on Thursday.

The statement, which details the accusations against Brigadier General Uch Sothearoth and includes a summary of his denial of the claims, does not say whether the ACU is investigating the case, and officials at the unit could not be reached Thursday.

Rather than working to combat crime, Brig. Gen. Sothearoth established a “central unit” inside the immigration police office to “work outside the system in order to extort money from foreigners,” the statement said, citing an anonymous and undated complaint that also accuses him of nepotism.

The general “ordered officials from his faction to collect from factories, institutions, industries, restaurants, clubs, massage parlors, schools and clinics where foreigners run businesses,” the statement said.

Summarizing Brig. Gen. Sothearoth’s response, the ACU said that he denied all of the claims made against him.

The general said the central unit referred to in the complaint was set up in June 2010, before he took up his post as deputy immigration police chief, and denied that his officers had extorted anyone under his watch.

Brig. Gen. Sothearoth also denied nepotism within the department, according to the statement.

“Uch Sothearoth clarified that he came to work as a deputy municipal police chief in charge of immigration alone, not bringing any relatives or groups along,” it said.

Brig. Gen. Sothearoth could not be reached Thursday.

One of the ACU’s highest-profile arrests in the past year was that of Meanchey district police chief Hy Narin, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing more than $670,000 over the course of nearly a decade in the position.

But more common than arrests of officials has been the public release of corruption allegations along with letters of denial, in which the ACU often declines to say whether it is pursuing a criminal investigation.

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