Despite the spate of recent arrests at Cambodian airports of travellers from Hong Kong with large amounts of cash from unknown sources, they continue to repeat the offence, with three Chinese nationals detained on Tuesday with almost $1 million.
The Chinese nationals were held at Phnom Penh International Airport after having landed in Cambodia from Hong Kong with $900,000 in cash.
The men, aged 32, 27 and 26, were travelling from Hong Kong on a Lanmei Airlines flight to meet another Chinese national who was said to be waiting in the capital to receive the cash, a Phnom Penh International Airport Customs Bureau report stated.
Ministry of Interior secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post on Wednesday that the suspects were found with $900,000 in three suitcases and were arrested for attempting to bring the cash into the Kingdom without being able to identify its source.
A Chinese national was detained in late May at Phnom Penh airport after bringing nearly $1 million in cash into Cambodia from Hong Kong.
In April, three Chinese men were held after they attempted to smuggle $3.52 million from Hong Kong to launder in the Kingdom.
On Sunday, Siem Reap authorities detained two South Korean nationals for bringing in $2.2 million through the provincial airport. They had also travelled from Hong Kong.
Phal told The Post on Wednesday that such large amounts of cash were mostly brought into Cambodia this way to avoid tax, with the money intended for investment in the country.
He said those who were arrested were unable to identify the source of the money. There was no evidence as yet linking these cases to terrorism, he said.
“Most of those who bring in cash this way want to invest the money, but they do so by illegal means, not depositing it in banks for legal enforcement. They try to bring the money in secretly with the aim of avoiding tax."
“We take great care in these cases because we need to ascertain whether the money is involved in the financing of terrorism or if it is to conduct business in Cambodia,” Phal stressed.
Kun Nhem, the director-general of the General Department of Customs and Excise, declined to comment when contacted by The Post.
Neither General Department of Immigration director-general Kirth Chantharith nor spokesman Keo Vanthan could be reached.
A 1998 prakas on the legal procedure for the export-import of foreign currencies states that there is no limit on the amount of foreign currencies to be imported into Cambodia by any delegation, traveller, legal individual or individual known as a “representative”.
“Travellers who import foreign currencies equivalent to $10,000 or more shall lodge a customs declaration in accordance with the laws and regulations in force and provide the declaration to customs officers for verification when these foreign currencies are re-exported,” it states.