Two US citizens were indicted in California Thursday on money laundering charges connected with the transfer of $21 million from the US to bank accounts in Cambodia over the past five years, news agencies reported last week.
US officials charged Sekharith Be and Seakhoung Ngo with illegal money transfers and related felony charges that could each lead to 5-year prison terms plus fines, The Associated Press reported. Since 2000, the pair are suspected of depositing small amounts of cash in various US cities. From there the money was wired to Cambodia. One of the prosecutors on the case said the US government was still investigating the source of the money, the AP reported.
Tal Nai Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, was not aware of the case but said the bank has been working closely with the US Embassy to fight money laundering to terrorist organizations. “We’ve been working hard on anti-money laundering measures,” she said.
US Embassy spokeswoman Heide Bronke said Monday she had no further information about the case.
In September Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government had successfully prevented Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, the alleged operations chief of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, from laundering money here.
“Cambodia would rather live in poverty than receive dirty money,” Hun Sen said at the time.
Bank operators around town said Monday that tighter licensing requirements for banks in 2000, have made it difficult to launder money.
“Banks are quite regulated…. The control is there,” said Yee Con Long, senior manager at Canadia Bank. “Banks the last four years have been quite healthy.”
In Channy, general manager of Acleda Bank, agreed. “It’s not easy to launder money through the Cambodian banking system,” he said.