The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday sent three officials from the General Department of Identification and the General Department of Immigration to the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) for allegedly attempting to bribe the police to release 18 detained Chinese nationals.

The Chinese nationals had been held for their alleged involvement in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) online money extortion scam in Kampong Speu province, according to Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Say Nora.

National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said the three officials had taken $40,000 to bribe the provincial police chief in exchange for the release of the 18.

The three men were detained on Thursday in Kampong Speu province.

Nora said on Monday, the court sent the officials to the ACU to comply with procedures because the case was a special offence in connection with Judicial Police officials.

Two of the three officials sent to the ACU worked in the General Department of Identification – deputy director Soeu Sitha and Khmer Nationality Bureau head Rath Pin.

The other official, Vann Sophea, headed the Procedural Compliance Bureau at the General Department of Immigration.

“Regarding the bribes, after I reviewed the case and finished questioning them, I sent them to the ACU to review the special offence. The case report and documentation have been sent too, and tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, they will be sent back to court,” Nora said.

National Police spokesman Kim Khoeun said that last Wednesday, the Kampong Speu police headquarters conducted an operation which resulted in the detention of 18 Chinese nationals in Baset district’s Svay Chachib commune for their alleged role in a VoIP online money extortion scam.

Provincial governor Vei Samnang said on Monday that after the 18 were detained, the three officials intervened and attempted to secure the release of the Chinese suspects.

“They thought our officials were corrupt. They offered money to release [the Chinese nationals]. We told them we could only release eight people for $40,000 and they said eight people are OK."

“Then they said that if we released twelve people, they would give us $150,000. We arrested the three and confiscated the $40,000,” he said.