A Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge said yesterday that a man who allegedly paid $30,000 to a government official in return for securing a prestigious government job was not charged with bribery because he never received the position he paid for.
Judge Seng Neang said yesterday the verdict in the fraud case against Tea Kimhong, 41, a former assistant to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, would be delivered on Friday.
Mr Kimhong faced trial on charges of fraud last week for offering a government position to Heng Heam, an official at the military court prosecutor’s office, in return for $30,000. It is still not known what position was offered to Mr Heam when the financial transaction took place in 2008.
Mr Heam sued Mr Kimhong when his $30,000 payment didn’t secure the job he wanted.
“It is not a case of buying a position, as the victim did not get the position,” Judge Neang said yesterday.
Cambodian Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun yesterday questioned why Mr Heam was not also pursued for contributing money as a means of gaining a government position. “If someone uses money to bribe government officials, then they should be charged with corruption,” he said.
A 2007 survey published by Pact Cambodia found that more than 70 percent of respondents believed that people should pay money to obtain a government job. “Becoming a low-level policeman is deemed to cost about $500,” the survey stated.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, yesterday continued to distance the ministry from the payment-for-positions case, saying that the $30,000 payment made by Mr Heam had nothing to do with legitimate “voluntary” contributions to the government.
“Tea Kimhong was cheating lots of people out of their money,” he said, adding that Mr Kheng’s former assistant was also a gambling addict. “Generally, money contributed voluntarily to the government goes to help local people—through building roads, schools and clean water wells, etc.”
Newly appointed chairman of the government’s long-awaited Anticorruption Unit, Om Yentieng, said yesterday that he was not familiar with the case of Mr Heam and Mr Kimhong.
“Don’t make it complicated—I am not related to that issue,” Mr Yentieng said.