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Phnom Penh Court finds provincial officials guilty of corruption

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea / Khmer Times Share:
Liem Bunroeun
Liem Bunroeun, Cheang Vuthy and Te Buntheng have been accused of corruption. CEN CEN

Three former Pursat provincial officials were convicted by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday after being found guilty of bribery schemes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars between 2016 and last year.

Court spokesman Kuch Kimlong identified them as Liem Bunroeun, former director of the provincial land management department; Cheang Vuthy, Bunroeun’s deputy; and Te Buntheng, an official in charge of the department’s One-Window services.

Mr Kimlong said judges found Bunroeun guilty of “misappropriation of public funds” under the Criminal Code, “abuse of power” under the Anti-Corruption Law and “money laundering” under the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing Law.

Mr Kimlong said Bunroeun was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined about $2,000

“The court seized Bunroeun’s two villas in Meanchey district, two villas in Pursat city, a Lexus 570 and Kia Picanto,” Mr Kimlong said. “They were bought using the illegally obtained money.”

He said Vuthy and Buntheng were convicted of “misappropriation of public funds” and “abuse of power”.

“The court convicted and sentenced Cheang Vuthy to three years, while it convicted and sentenced Te Buntheng to two years and six months,” Mr Kimlong said. “Both of them were fined five million riels [about $1,250].”

He said the convicts were arrested on July 27 by the Anti-Corruption Unit during a sting operation at a restaurant in Pursat after being handed $50,000 from an unnamed local factory owner for a construction permit.

Chhay Hong, a deputy court prosecutor, said the money was part of a $100,000 bribe, the three had demanded one day before the arrests.

Mr Hong said on July 26, the factory owner alerted the ACU about the three officials and the sting operation was carried out the following day.

He said ACU agents seized the money at the restaurant and proceeded to inspect Bunroeun’s office, where an additional $75,000 in bribes and related documents were taken as evidence. On July 31, a provincial judge seized the rest of Bunroeun’s assets. He said Bunroeun following a promotion became director of the department in 2016. For three years he engaged in 140 illegal services and amassed $384,000 in bribes.

Mr Hong said Vuthy and Buntheng were Bunroeun’s close colleagues who committed the crimes together. They prepared the documents and main deeds, while Bunroeun signed the papers.

“Vuthy and Buntheng were able to earn $2,000 to $3,000 per month from illegal activities, in addition to their monthly salaries,” he said. “Their activities affected the honour and reputation of the Royal Government and negatively impacted the government’s image.”

The three did not comment after they were sentenced.

All three during their trial on February 9 admitted their guilt and asked the court to be lenient.

They said they earned about $500 per month and more money was needed to support their families.

Bunroeun said he amassed $270,000, not $384,000 as reported.

“I did not keep all of the money to myself, some of the money I spent on roads, irrigation systems, wells and education programmes for villagers and other poor people living in impoverished communities in Pursat,” Bunroeun said. “Some of the money was spent on food, materials and clothes for my land management department staffers.”

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