A Canadian company that was recently awarded a municipal garbage collection contract
will become the third foreign company operating in Cambodia to be taken to overseas
courts by politician Sam Rainsy, who has alleged corruption in all three companies'
dealings with the government.
The other two companies are Sweden's Millicom SA, parent company of MobiTel, and
French construction company Vinci, the parent company of airport concessionaire SCA.
The leader of the opposition plans to file suit against the three under the 1998
OECD convention combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business
transactions. Canada, France and Sweden are all OECD member countries, and those
found guilty could be fined and imprisoned for up to ten years.
Rainsy has targeted Canada's Cintec Group, the parent company of Cintri Cambodia
Ltd, which recently signed a much criticized deal with the municipality to take over
garbage collection in Phnom Penh. He admits his suit is currently no more than a
presumption, but felt evidence would be found to back his claim.
"[Cintec] is unfairly taking advantage of Cambodia and managed to get a very
dubious contract with the municipality for garbage collection. This is just unacceptable,"
Rainsy said, alleging the contract was clouded by corruption. "This has been
done under the table, in an non-transparent manner."
The president of Cintri Cambodia, Franco Pacetti, denied Rainsy's allegations.
"I'm not at all worried about being sued by Sam Rainsy because we haven't done
anything to be fearful of," said Pacetti. "There has been no corruption
or bribery from Cintri Cambodia."
Pacetti confirmed that the contract with the municipal government was signed in March
and said it would be in force by May.
"I don't think [Rainsy] has correctly understood, but we were not awarded any
contract in this case," he continued. "All we have done is purchase certain
assets of PSBK [the current garbage collection company], namely the balance of 47
years on the waste collection contract."
Rainsy claimed the contract did not contain any clauses guaranteeing Cintri's performance
and said the municipality had no means to cancel the contract even if the company
failed to operate collection and disposal services. Pacetti disputed that.
"This is entirely false and without foundation," said Pacetti. "If
we do not conform and respect our obligations, the municipal government can end the
Rainsy also said that as garbage collection fees are to be included on electricity
bills, customers would be blackmailed into paying or face electricity cuts. Pacetti
did confirm that Cintri Cambodia has an arrangement with Electricité du Cambodge
to include garbage fees on customer's electricity bills, stating that one of the
main reasons was to ensure payment.
"Three or four different companies have tried to implement a system and not
been able to and we've been told that it is largely due to non-payment," he
said. "It is ludicrous to suggest that we can charge whatever prices we feel
like. We will not increase prices."
The second company Rainsy has started legal proceedings against is French construction
company Vinci, whose subsidiary, SCA, won the contract to construct and manage both
Phnom Penh's and Siem Reap's airports until 2020.
"Vinci's [contract] for Pochentong was non-transparent; they can change the
contract at their will. Their contract for Siem Reap airport is a cash cow and they
charge very high airport taxes," Rainsy said. "The only possible motive
SCA's chairman, Joel Velasque, was in France and could not be contacted for comment.
Rainsy said the Vinci case had not yet been lodged in court, but it will be the first
of the three to do so. He claimed to have witnesses - former Cambodian civil servants
- who would back up his claims.
The third company is Millicom SA, parent company of Cambodian telecoms firm MobiTel
which paid the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, So Khun, $2,500 a month
beginning in 1997 to act as an "honorary advisor" to the MobiTel board
at the time the minister was awarding telecoms contracts. MobiTel's general manager,
David Spriggs, was also unavailable for comment.
"It is important that we make good use of such a powerful tool [the OECD convention]
and I hope that other developing countries that are being abused by dubious companies
use this legal weapon to fight international corruption," Rainsy concluded.