Transport Ministry Probes $210,000 in Missing Port Money

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is investigating more than $210,000 in missing funds from the Phnom Penh Port Authority, Minister Khy Tang Lim said Thursday.

In an annual meeting with port staff, the minister told nearly 700 workers that the ministry last week sent a team to the port to investigate when and how the money was lost, and who may be responsible.

“The investigation has already started to find out who was involved in this matter,” declared Khy Tang Lim. “If we find that the money was actually stolen, we will bring the case to the court and punish officials involved.”

Two staff members of the port’s finance department already have been suspended in the case, but dozens of workers maintained Thursday that they weren’t responsible for the missing funds.

They claimed that other top officials were involved in the case and covered it up using the two as scapegoats.

“The two are experts and have long experience in finance and accounting. They have never stolen any money from the port,” registration officer Sao Sovann said at the meeting.

More than 200 workers thumb­printed a petition this week also requesting the ministry to find and recover the missing funds.

According to ministry officials and port workers, the port authority last September discovered about $55,000 was missing from the port treasury. Cashier In Sinang was suspended in mid-November after he signed a letter that the money was lost because of his technical mistakes and he would pay all the money back.

But in a letter to the minister dated Jan 2, In Sinang recanted, maintaining that he was innocent and forced to sign his original confession by port deputy directors Hei Bavy and Ieng Veng Sun.

He also claimed in the January letter that an additional $160,000 had gone missing from the port treasury, according to a copy of the letter. In Sinang charged in the letter that the two deputy directors pocketed the money. The money was supposed to have been returned to port customers who paid deposits that exceeded their port fees, according to the letter.

However, another member of the financial department was suspended instead in late January, according to officials and workers. It was not immediately clear who ordered the suspension.

Hei Bavy on Thursday denied In Sinang’s accusation that he or the other deputy director stole money from the port. He said that will be clear as soon as the investigation is completed.

Minister Khy Tang Lim indicated in the meeting that the inspection team has found prime suspects on the case but he didn’t elaborate. “I don’t worry too much about the port, because we have already found diseases,” he told the workers. “I hope we have the medicine to treat it.”



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