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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Swedes probe Mobitel

Swedes probe Mobitel

THE Swedish government has ordered its Chief Public Prosecutor to investigate allegations

of corrupt practices by Cambodia's Mobitel.

Mobitel's majority shareholder is Millicom International Cellular SA, one of Sweden's

largest corporations.

"The whole problem of corruption and bribery in some of the countries with which

Sweden is co-operating is under official scrutiny and public debate at the moment,"

Swedish Parliamentary Speaker Birgitta Dahl stated in a March 27 written response

to MP Son Chhay's allegations of allegedly corrupt practices by Mobitel. "I

have therefore forwarded your letter to the Chief Public Prosecutor in Sweden."

However Dahl added that prosecution was unlikely since Mobitel "...is technically

not a Swedish [company]."

The Swedish Embassy confirmed that Swedish authorities were investigating Chhay's

allegations but reiterated that legal action against Mobitel in Sweden would be difficult

because it's company registration is in Luxembourg and New York rather than Sweden.

Chhay's letter had listed a series of examples of questionable conduct by Mobitel

in Cambodia that Chhay had uncovered as Chairman of the National Assembly's committee

responsible for telecommunications.

In particular Chhay had emphasized Mobitel's monthly payments of $2,500 to Minister

of Post and Communications So Khun as an "honorary advisor" and reports

that the company had paid "large amount[s]...to various high ranking government

members and officials to have [telecommunication] projects approved and amended outside

of the legal channels."

Dahl expressed support for Chhay's investigations and indicated that the Swedish

government had expressed concern about the relations between Mobitel and government

officials to Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, who visited Sweden as a guest of Millicom

in March.

"I completely agree with your judgment that practices of the kind you describe

are totally intolerable," Dahl wrote. "I also know that this general Swedish

position was stated very clearly to Mr. Sar Kheng...when he was here in Stockholm

last week."

Five days before Sar Kheng's arrival in Sweden on March 19 he vehemently denied Post

enquiries regarding his reported Millicom-funded Swedish travel plans, stating explicitly

that he had no plans whatsoever to go to Sweden and would in no case accept a paid

trip by a private company to do so.

Efforts to contact Sar Kheng for clarification regarding his visit to Sweden and

the pending investigation by Swedish judicial authorities were unsuccessful.

Mark Hanna, spokesman for Mobitel in Phnom Penh, told the Post that he had not heard

of the Swedish investigation into Millicom/Mobitel Cambodia operations.

"There has to be some way of dealing with [corruption involving foreign companies

in Cambodia] by contacting the governments involved that have more advanced rules

and regulations against corruption," Chhay said.

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