Since the late 1990s, when armored trucks and other fortified security measures were deployed, old-fashioned, hands-in-the-air heists have caused Cambodian bank operators little worry. It’s the sophisticated swindlers who concern them today.
“Hacking into a bank security system will one day happen in Cambodia, because it has already happened in other countries around the world,” said Terry Mach, Acleda Bank’s information technology manager.
No security system is 100 percent. All have a weakness, he added. The key is to shore up that weakness.
Acleda “has invested large amounts of money to hire foreign hackers to hack into the bank’s security system and find the weak points or holes in the system and take action to minimize the weakness in the system and prevent unexpected problems,” Mach said.
“Professional hackers are very hard to find,” he added.
While the details surrounding white-collar crime in Cambodia have never been easy to pin down, officials at the National Bank of Cambodia recently spoke to a newly prioritized issue.
“We are worried about money laundering. That’s why we established the FIU,” said National Bank Deputy Director General Phan Ho, referring to the nascent Financial Intelligence Unit.
The FIU was born of anti-money laundering legislation passed in 2007 and encouraged by the US as one of several anti-terrorism initiatives it has pushed in Cambodia.
Tal Nay Im, the National Bank’s director general, played down the issue.
“It’s on a small scale, with amounts such as $100,000 or $200,000, no more than $500,000,” she said.
Nonetheless, Nay Im said the FIU, which is comprised of representatives from the National Bank and the ministries of Interior, Finance and Justice, will pursue all suspicious transactions.
“The FIU will control all – banking, microfinance, casinos and land speculation,” she said.
But opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay of the Sam Rainsy Party, speculating on Cambodia’s well-known reputation as a money-laundering haven, estimated that washed currency could amount to around $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year.
He also called the government’s new anti-laundering measures inadequate and suggested a lack of political will keeps them toothless.
“Cambodia has no proper law to attract good investors, so if we do their money laundering at least local officials can profit because those money launderers need local partners to assist them,” Chhay said.