The ‘Respectable’ Faces That Help Cambodia’s Elite Loot the Country

In August 1990, one year before he took up his role as U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, Charles Twining wrote that “the Phnom Penh regime is … acquiring a significant reputation for corruption.” Three decades later the country has the same prime minister, Hun Sen, and his government the same reputation for graft. Another constant for the last 30 years has been the apparent willingness of outwardly respectable banks, realtors and consultants to help politically connected Cambodians expatriate their country’s riches.

In recent months, an investigative series by Radio Free Asia examining the overseas real estate holdings of Cambodia’s ruling elite has turned up properties worth $30 million. Upcoming stories will reveal further properties, worth in excess of $100 million.

That figure is just a drop in the ocean of wealth that leaks out of the country illicitly each year. In 2016 alone, at least $1.8 billion was laundered out of Cambodia, according to an analysis by U.S. think tank Global Financial Integrity.

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