Sweden's public prosecutor, Christer van der Kwast, confirmed his government dropped
December 12 an investigation into alleged bribery and corruption charges against
a senior executive connected to Mobitel.
However, the Phnom Penh-based legal advisor who drew up the report on which the prosecutor
based his decision, said he was surprised at the conclusion drawn from his report.
The corruption investigation into Mr M. A. Zaman, a Swedish citizen, stemmed from
Mobitel's 1997 offer, and Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, So Khun's acceptance,
of a paid 'honorary advisor' position to Mobitel's board of directors. The position
was worth $2,500 a month.
Van der Kwast said although the advisory fee would be illegal in Sweden, it needed
to be illegal under Cambodian law for his government to prosecute. The report from
the Phnom Penh-based legal advisor, he said, indicated it was not illegal. He added
that this report was the most influential factor in his decision.
The legal advisor who authored the report insisted on anonymity: he had done the
review, he said, as "a favor for a Swedish friend" and was assured it would
be confidential. He said his report stated it would be politically difficult to pursue
the case in Cambodia, but made no judgment as to whether the action was illegal.
In fact, he said, prima facie evidence suggested it was against Cambodian law, particularly
Mobitel's offer of cash to the minister. It was, he agreed, a breach of Article 120
of the Constitution, the highest law in the land. However, he added, his report was
based on possible breaches of the Criminal Law, rather than the Constitution, as
it was the former that contained the "substantive provisions".
One reason why it might well be illegal under the Criminal Law was that the fee was
paid to the minister "while the Minister had overall responsibility for handling
applications and decisions of considerable commercial importance and value for Mobitel".
Beyond the tussle over legal opinion, though, was the more heavyweight pressure from
political influence. The Post has also obtained letters written October 15 by two
senior CPP politicians to the speaker of the Swedish parliament. The letters were
released under Sweden's Freedom of Information Act.
The letter writers, former prime minister Heng Samrin and current deputy prime minister
Sar Kheng, requested Sweden drop the investigation into Mr Zaman. That, van der Kwast
admitted, had also made a difference.
"Of course, in my investigation, [it counts for something] that Sar Kheng and
Heng Samrin have these thoughts about it, and that they made a statement to Brigitta
Dahl [the Swedish speaker] about this," he said.
"The [reason] the investigation has ended is for technical reasons," van
der Kwast concluded. "Under Swedish law I cannot prosecute if I am not able
to prove that this was a crime in Cambodia. In Sweden it is a crime, and [Mr Zaman]
is a Swedish citizen. However, they are not giving the information and the statement
from Cambodia [that it is a crime]."
Van der Kwast said that if further evidence came to light in the next six months,
before the statute of limitations expired, then the investigation could be re-opened.
In his letter, Sar Kheng confirmed that Minister So Khun, "has been acting as
a paid advisor to Mobitel", but denied the minister was guilty of any crimes
under Cambodian law.
"We have also been informed that Mr Zaman [head of Mobitel Sweden] is detained
in Sweden for bribing H.E. Mr So Khun. We are very sad to hear that," Sar Kheng's
letter continued. "Mr Zaman is a responsible, sincere and honest man and a Chairman
of a respectable company. Therefore I would like to request you to please drop all
charges against him and Mobitel and release him immediately with full honour."
Sar Kheng stressed that "if news gets out, this could create serious fear in
the minds of foreign investors". He wrote that Son Chhay's letter to the Swedish
parliament was seen by foreign investors as "a negative tool to drive foreign
Heng Samrin's letter was sent in his capacity as acting president of the National
Assembly. Samrin similarly dismissed the accuracy of Son Chhay's information saying
it "did not present the correct situation and information". It went on:
"Neither Mobitel nor its Director Chairman has done anything which could be
considered illegal in our country."
"Therefore please drop all charges base [sic] on wrong information provided
by Mr Son Chhay about Mobitel, its director and Chairman of Mobitel," the letter
The letters from Heng Samrin and Sar Kheng followed information passed to the Swedish
government by opposition MP Son Chhay of alleged corrupt practices involving Mobitel.
Son Chhay was at the time chairman of the National Assembly's committee dealing with
telecoms, but was sacked from his position September 13 in a CPP-Funcinpec maneuver.