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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Official suspected of visa scam

Official suspected of visa scam

Chey Sambo, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Tourism (MoT), has been placed

under investigation for allegedly falsifying documents in order to obtain travel

visas to the United States.

Minister at the MoT, Veng Sereyvuth, said he would personally head an investigation

into the matter.

"It's premature to be making any accusation. We'll cooperate [on the investigation]

with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," he said.

Sambo, the son-in-law of co-Minister for the Ministry of Interior, You Hokry, is

being investigated for allegedly falsely claiming that five people were employees

of the MoT and traveling to the US as part of an official delegation.

The five people, whose passports are consecutively numbered, were listed by the Ministry

of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as a employees at the MoT in a letter

to the US Embassy. The letter requested that Sambo and five others be given visas

"to attend a tourism advertising mission in Washington DC, New York, California

and Seattle, to be held on the end of 2001".

"We can confirm that those five individuals are not officials of the Ministry,"

Sereyvuth told the Post.

A faxed and unsigned statement, that apparently emanated from within MoT, claimed

that it was not the first time that Sambo, who is himself a US citizen, had used

his position in this way. The statement alleged that "those who intend to live

in the United States" had paid between $15,000 and $20,000 to Sambo and another

MoT official to get listed on visa request letters.

The five had been given various fake titles as officials at the finance and planning

departments and "assistance" (sic) to Sambo and to the Minister himself.

The result, according to the statement, was that the US embassy had been "coerced"

into granting the visas.

Secretary of State at the MoT, Thong Khon, said that it was not possible to confirm

how many times the alleged visa scam had been pulled.

"We don't how long this has gone on, we don't know if it's the first time or

the second. We'll just have to wait for the investigation," he said.

According to the faxed statement, the US embassy discovered that the members of the

delegation were not officials. However, spokesman Ken Foster said that the embassy

was unaware of the situation.

The investigation comes little more than a week after a high ranking official from

the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) was charged with drugs trafficking.

Colonel Sok Sophak, personal aide to NACD head, Em Sam An, was arrested along with

three others at Phnom Penh's Pacific Hotel in possession of 5,000 amphetamine pills.

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