Arrested Man Says They Tricked Him
Two Taiwanese men are being sought by local authorities in connection with the Sihanoukville toxic waste dumping scandal.
The suspects are believed to have arrived in Cambodia in November and helped facilitate the mercury-tainted waste’s entry into the seaside town, according to court documents.
The Sihanoukville Court has asked the immigration police for assistance in obtaining information about the two men, according to a Jan 28 letter from Huon Many, the court’s investigating judge. The letter did not name the two suspects, who are now most likely outside the country, officials said.
Immigration Police Director Prok Saroeun said Monday that he has responded to the court’s request by compiling a list of approximately 1,000 names of Taiwanese citizens who arrived in Cambodia in November.
“We will let the court see [the list] and find the two names they need,” Prok Saroeun said.
The only person to be arrested in connection with the toxic dumping told Sihanoukville Court officials on Dec 19 that the two Taiwanese “deceived him” about the contents of the shipment, characterizing it as “stone.”
In his Jan 28 letter, Judge Huon Many alleged that Taiwan-based Jade Fortune International Co Ltd exported the waste to Cambodia by falsely identifying it as “cement cake,” or construction waste, on customs papers.
The 3,000 tons of debris is actually mercury-tainted industrial waste produced by Taipei-based Formosa Plastics Corp, according to environmental experts.
Formosa Plastics agreed to remove the waste within 60 days during a meeting last weekend in Taipei with a government negotiating team. Compensation for Cambodia was not discussed.
The two Taiwanese suspects were in Cambodia before the ship carrying the waste, the Chang Shun V9811, arrived Nov 30 at the Sihanoukville Port, the court’s Huon Many wrote.
“These two Taiwanese are accused of undermining human lives and the natural environment as stipulated in article 22 of the environmental law,” Huon Many wrote to the immigration police.
He added, “To be legally able to charge them, we must have their biographies.”
The Sihanoukville Court has so far named nine government employees as being the focus of their investigation into the waste, which was dumped Dec 4 outside Sihanoukville town. Prosecutor Mam Muth has said the nine, including Customs Director In Saroeun, are expected to be formally charged.
Officials have not determined who authorized the waste’s importation, how much Formosa Plastics Corp paid to dump the waste in Sihanoukville or who received the money.
Sam Moeurn, a Cambodian businessman arrested Dec 21 and in custody since, urged police Dec 16 at Pochentong Airport to prevent the two Taiwanese from leaving Cambodia, according to court documents.
Operator of the Muth Vuthy company accused of being the local import broker for the waste, Sam Moeurn also told court officials he sought out the two Taiwanese after the discovery of the waste site was published and broadcast by major Phnom Penh media Dec 15.
“On Dec 15, I went to see the two Taiwanese at the Mittapheap Hotel in Phnom Penh,” Sam Moeurn told the court Dec 19. “I told them that the papers had talked about the waste and that I had spent much money on this business. The two Chinese told me that they would leave for [Sihanoukville] and buy tents to cover the waste and promised to pay me $6 per ton.”
Sam Moeurn told the court he tried to reach the men again on the night of Dec 15 by phone but a translator said he didn’t know where they were. The following morning, Sam Moeurn claimed he visited the hotel, airport, immigration police headquarters and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to get official cooperation to apprehend the two Taiwanese.
Prok Saroeun indicated Monday he believes the suspects have fled to Taiwan. “When the court can identify the names, and they are proven guilty, we will seek cooperation from Taiwanese authorities to arrest them,” the immigration police chief said by telephone.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Monday that the Taiwanese suspects “sold everything they owned in Cambodia, including their house, and fled.”
The general said police are trying to determine what day the Taiwanese entered Cambodia.
(Additional reporting by Chris Decherd)
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