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Broadcast execs suspended

FOUR senior managers at a prominent radio and television network have been suspended from their positions on suspicion of being involved in the embezzlement of millions of dollars of investment funds.

Southeast Asia TV & Radio (SEA) General Manager Mam Rasmey, sales director Huot Sovann, administration manager Ou Vanna and technical director Uy Thuon were relieved of their duties earlier this month after the network’s deputy general director, Sem Sovandeth, was charged with breach of trust.

The charges were brought after Sem Sovandeth’s business partner, Kao Kim Hourn, accused him of embezzling US$7 million from Japanese financiers – money that had been earmarked for the group’s radio station and TV programming.

Speaking Monday, Kao Kim Hourn said: “I ordered the suspension of the four because they are all involved in the case. The court will take legal action against those who are involved.”

On Tuesday, Mam Rasmey denied the allegations but confirmed that he and three colleagues had been suspended indefinitely and called for a thorough investigation.

“My job at SEA TV has been suspended,” he said. “I am waiting for a solution from the station, but I am not involved with the case. The arrest of Sem Sovandeth was hasty, so there should be a deep investigation.”

Kao Kim Hourn, who is also a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a dean at the University of Cambodia, entered into a business partnership with Sem Sovandeth in 2007. The two men found a Japanese investor to fund a network of television and radio stations.

Southeast Asia Radio, on FM 106, opened in July of that year. Kao Kim Hourn said he later transferred the bulk of the money and responsibilities to his partner, including the oversight of hiring staff and constructing suitable office space to house the new operation.

When Sem Sovandeth was charged earlier this month, Mam Rasmey dismissed the allegations as libelous and said the two businessmen should have resolved the matter internally.

Investigating Judge Chhay Kong confirmed Tuesday that Sem Sovandeth was being held in pretrial detention.

“Sem Sovandeth is being held in Prey Sar prison, and the breach of trust case is under investigation,” he said, adding that a date for the hearing has yet to be set.

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