Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday criticised police officers over the handling of a money laundering case involving three Chinese nationals who brought more than $3.5 million into the country without declaring the source of the cash on April 23.
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During a ceremony inaugurating newly-elected municipal councillors, he noted that Cambodia had been listed as a grey country in an international list on money laundering.
“I received information that some police officers arrested the three suspects but passed them over to another group of officers without trying to find out where the money came from,” Mr Kheng said. “From now on if a similar case takes place, the officers concerned must immediately report directly to me.”
He noted that that there were allegations that the suspects had offered 50 percent of the money in bribes so that they could be released.
“If that money is legal money, why should they compromise?” Mr Kheng said. “Why would they want to share 50 percent unless it is illegal money.”
Mr Kheng said that the money was now being kept at the national bank while the source is being investigated, noting that the suspects claimed that they won it through gambling but did not provide any proof.
Lieutenant General Keo Vanthan, General Department of Immigration spokesman, yesterday said over the phone that the municipal court has charged the three men and sent them for pretrial detention at PJ prison in Phnom Penh.
“Now, the municipal court is investigating and the court has also ordered the department to investigate the source of the money and we are cooperating with a foreign country to do it,” he said. “We are checking to see if they obtained it legally or through drug trafficking or robbery.”
“We must find more evidence so that the court can begin hearing the case,” Lt Gen Vanthan added.
He noted that police officers do not believe the suspects’ claims that they won the money through gambling.
Lt Gen Vanthan also said that he has not received any information about the suspects offering 50 percent of the money to police officers so that they would be released.
On April 26, the Interior Ministry reported that three Chinese nationals were arrested on April 23 at Phnom Penh International Airport for trying to bring in more than $3.5 million in cash from Hong Kong without declaring the source of the money.
Chinese nationals Wang Shi Ping, Wang Li Chao and Zhang Jian on Monday were charged with money laundering and placed in pre-trial detention.
“Wang Shi Ping, Wang Li Chao and Zhang Jian were charged with money laundering under Articles 3 and 29 of the Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism,” deputy court prosecutor Ly Sophanna said at that time. “They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.”
Immigration police said the three were carrying $3,520,000 in $100 banknotes upon arrival at the airport.
Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun, national police spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday.