Australian financial institution ANZ has distanced itself from the Royal Group, its local partner in a Cambodian joint venture bank, following police reports linking the group to illegal logging activities.
A report published by Cambodia’s National Police this week accused Royal Group, owned by prominent tycoon Kith Meng, of laundering illegal timber through the Lower Sesan II hydropower project. It accused the conglomerate of using its licence to clear the reservoir area as cover for its subsidiary’s laundering of timber from elsewhere.
The Royal Group has denied the claims. Royal Group owns a 45 percent stake in ANZ Royal Bank, a joint venture with ANZ that operates 15 branches with over $1 billion in assets.
Stephen Ries, spokesman for ANZ, said in a statement yesterday that the bank and its local subsidiary had no involvement or financial ties to the Royal Group’s activities.
“To the extent that the Royal Group – a company in which ANZ has no financial or other interest is involved in dam projects, that is a matter for the Royal Group,” he said.
“While the Royal Group is ANZ’s minority partner in ANZ Royal Bank, we can confirm ANZ and ANZ Royal Bank provides no funding to dam projects in Cambodia whatsoever.”
ANZ Royal Bank previously faced scrutiny for its involvement with a sugar plantation belonging to ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat after the operation was linked to land disputes and child labour scandals.
The bank severed its ties with the company in 2014 when reports of wrongdoing at the plantation emerged.