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Women walk past an Acleda branch in Phnom Penh’s Steung Meanchey district earlier this year.
Women walk past an Acleda branch in Phnom Penh’s Steung Meanchey district earlier this year. Hong Menea

Acleda sues police colonel

Interior Ministry police lieutenant colonel Pheng Vannak’s use of Facebook has landed him in hot water yet again, with Acleda Bank on Monday filing a defamation complaint against the official for a post accusing it of corruption.

Vannak – who has been convicted of defamation for sharing a Facebook post alleging a businesswoman had an affair with a military general, and is the subject of court proceedings over death threat sent to Kem Sokha on the social media site – was among netizens who took aim at Acleda over seeming discrepancies in road tax payments, which can be paid through the bank.

The December 15 post related to pictures showing two nearly identical Toyota HiAce vans, one, a 2015 model, which had paid 200,000 riel ($50) and another, a 2016 model, which had paid 600,000 riel ($150). Vannak suggested Acleda had taken money in exchange for lowering the price.

However, quickly after the posts began to circulate, the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s taxation department issued a clarification, saying Acleda had not made the mistake. Instead, the error was committed by Siem Reap province’s department of public works and transportation, which had classified one van as a tourist vehicle, which was liable for a $50 road tax, and the other as a pick-up truck, which needed to pay $150.

The December 16 clarification called on the owner of the latter vehicle to return to have his car reclassified and reclaim the extra money he had paid.

However, even after the tax department’s letter, Vannak continued to claim corruption was involved, saying he had evidence.

“If I am wrong, I am responsible. I will not run away like the bandit Sam Rainsy,” he posted yesterday.

Acleda’s complaint letter, signed by chief executive In Channy, said Vannak had made accusations without seeking information from the bank or relevant institutions. “It affects the dignity of Acleda and the reputation of the whole finance institution,” reads the letter.

Speaking yesterday, Acleda’s head of conflict resolution, Buth Bun Seyha, said Vannak would now have to face the consequences of his actions.

“He has the right to express himself, but his expression affected the bank’s reputation,” she said. “But we have not decided what’s next or the [amount of] compensation [to seek].”

Contacted yesterday, Vannak was more contrite.

“After the clarifications from the tax department and the bank, [I accept] Acleda was not wrong; I did not collect enough information,” Vannak said.

“I could say sorry, but the complaint has already been filed. The police have not called me for questioning yet . . . it is not a big thing. It’s not a criminal case.”

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