SEA TV & Radio official accused by partner of embezzling more than $7 million.
It is absolute slander, which can destroy [kem
A PROMINENT Cambodian broadcasting executive has been charged with breach of trust, accused of embezzling millions in investment money meant for his radio and television network, court officials confirmed Thursday.
Sem Sovandeth, the deputy general director of Southeast Asia TV & Radio (SEA), was held for questioning in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday after being accused by his business partner of embezzling US$7 million from Japanese financiers – money that was supposed to have
been injected into the group’s radio station and TV programming.
“I charged [Sem Sovandeth] with breach of trust,” deputy court prosecutor Plang Sophal said Thursday. “If he is found guilty, he could be sentenced to between one and five years in prison.”
Sem Sovandeth appeared in court Thursday, accompanied by several National Police officers.
Kao Kimhuon, SEA’s general director, said he lodged the complaint against his business partner after discovering what he called “irregularities”.
Money that was supposed to fund staff salaries, building construction and equipment has disappeared, Kao Kimhuon said.
“I have enough credible evidence and witnesses to prove Sem Sovandeth’s irregularities in embezzling more than US$7 million,” said Kao Kimhuon, who is also a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a dean at the University of Cambodia.
“I strongly hope that the court will find justice for us and all the staff … whose salaries have been cheated,” he said.
Kao Kimhuon said he and Sem Sovandeth entered into a business partnership in 2007, negotiating with a Japanese investor to fund a network of television and radio stations.
Southeast Asia Radio, on FM 106, opened in July of that year. Kao Kimhuon said he later transferred the bulk of start-up responsibilities to his partner, including oversight of hiring staff and building a home for the new media entities.
However, an associate of Sem Sovandeth called the allegations baseless.
“Kao Kimhuon’s complaint against his partner on breach of trust … is not true,” said Mam Rasmey, general manager at SEA’s FM 106 radio station. “It is absolute slander, which can destroy his partner.”
Mam Rasmey said the business partners should have sorted out the allegations internally before taking the matter to the courts.
“Sem Sovandeth’s arrest was done very quickly,” he said.
The case’s investigating judge, Chhay Kong, declined to speak about the case in depth when contacted by the Post on Thursday.
“I am terribly sorry that I cannot reveal information about the investigation,” Chhay Kong said. “It might affect the individual’s reputation, and if I dare reveal the information, I will be prosecuted.”