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Land officials face bribery charges

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Two unidentified men help an official from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to hide his face as he enters Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Four officials from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction who were arrested at their offices on Monday following an Anti-Corruption Unit investigation have been charged with bribery, court staff said yesterday.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge Leang Samnath divulged only minor details of the charges against Sa Reth Boramy, deputy general director of the general department of Land Management; Pho Vuthy, director of the department of finance; his deputy, Tuy Lay Rithy; and finance office chief Meas Ey Sara.

“They have been charged by the court with bribery,” Samnath said. “I am still working on this case.”

A statement from the Cabinet of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, released last night, said suspicions about illicit activity had been raised after a local media report in June.

“After receiving unusual information over the implementation of social land concessions ... the ministry formed a commission to inspect the project,” it states.

“As a result, the ministry suspended the work of Pho Vuthy on June 19 to clear the way for a full inspection with the co-operation of the ACU.

“Four officials within the ministry suspected to be involved were taken to the court ... for further investigation and will be dealt with by the law.”

According to a Ministry of Interior police official who did not wish to be named, social land concessions for retired soldiers were at the centre of the bribery charges.

ACU officers had focused their investigation on hundreds of thousands of dollars that allegedly changed hands during 2011, he said.

Chheang Se, a court clerk, said the accused officials were questioned at length on Wednesday before being charged yesterday.

“They have already been sent to the investigating judge,” he said. “According to court procedures, they will be detained in prison until the judge has concluded his investigation.”

Ministry spokesman Beng Hong Socheat Khemro, ACU president Om Yientieng and ACU spokesman Keo Remy were unavailable for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at reaksmeykongkea.buth@phnompenhpost.com

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