A major recruitment fraud case came to a close on Friday as the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted six people—five in absentia—on human trafficking charges for swindling dozens of prospective migrant workers out of hundreds of dollars each.
The case came to light in September when the workers protested outside the Phnom Penh offices of Chin Vanda Manpower after paying the recruitment agency between $250 and $400 each to arrange for them to travel to and work in Thailand, only to be abandoned at a border crossing in Battambang province.
The workers also detained the man who brought them to the border, 31-year-old Seng Salen, and delivered him to anti-human trafficking police, who raided the agency’s offices the following day and seized a trove of passports and other documents but made no further arrests.
Six people were eventually charged with “unlawful removal for cross-border transfer” for their various roles in defrauding and abandoning the workers—Mr. Salen, Prom Chhay Ly, Yi Odom, Suos Sinat, Horm Sarom and Chin Vanda himself—although all but Mr. Salen remained at large.
On trial earlier this month, Mr. Salen said he was instructed to transport 58 workers to Battambang by bus shortly after taking a job as a receptionist at the Career Quality Development Organization run by Mr. Chhay Ly, also a deputy director of Chin Vanda Manpower.
Mr. Salen’s lawyer, Sok Huong, said his client had merely been following orders. “If he had not done it, he would have been fired,” he said.
Presiding Judge Thlang Phaneth argued that all six defendants had colluded—using the faux legitimacy of Chin Vanda Manpower, Career Quality Development and the so-called Takayama Center
—to cheat hundreds of workers altogether.
Yesterday, the judge announced that the court had found them guilty as charged.
“The court has decided to sentence each person to eight years in prison,” he said. “It orders the defendants to give compensation of $100,000 to [each of] the plaintiffs.”