Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Drug connection denied

Drug connection denied

Drug connection denied

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Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew Hun To has emphatically denied all allegations published by Australian newspaper The Age about his involvement in a heroin-trafficking and money-laundering syndicate targeting Australia.

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Hun To, whose wife and children reside in Melbourne, Australia, told the Post yesterday that he plans to file a lawsuit against The Age in both Cambodia and Australia.

“I will meet [Minster of Interior] Khieu Sopheak to file a complaint to the Ministry of Interior, and then I will file another complaint to the Australian Embassy,” Hun To said. “I will also hire a foreign lawyer in Australia to work on this case and demand the newspaper show evidence of my involvement in those crimes.”

The Age yesterday reported that the Australian Crime Commission targeted Hun To in a 2002-2004 inquiry dubbed Operation Illipango that investigated heroin shipped from Cambodia into Australia hidden inside loads of timber.

However, Australian police plans to arrest Hun To were derailed when an Australian embassy official in Phnom Penh denied Hun To a visa to Australia, believing his arrest could create a “diplomatic incident”, The Age reported.

Hun To yesterday said he had, in fact, been refused an entry visa to Australia by the embassy in 2003 because the Australian government was suspicious of his involvement with transnational drug crimes, but he had since been cleared.

“There is no denial of visas for me – I visited Australia three or four months ago,” he said.

“To tell the truth, two years ago, I was offered Australian nationality, but I did not accept it,” he added, saying that he refused because it would not look good for him to have a foreign passport because he is related to senior political families.

He also criticised The Age for publishing the story “without any evidence”.

“You are a newspaper in a state of law,” he said. “If I was involved in crimes like that, there would be no need for Australia to arrest me, Prime Minister Hun Sen would order me arrested in our country.”

The Age said it was not in a position to comment yesterday when contacted by the Post, as relevant staff were not available.

The Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh said it “understands recent media reports on investigations into regional drug trafficking networks relate to events that allegedly occurred some years ago”.

“It is not appropriate for the embassy to comment on individual visa applicants or law enforcement matters,” an embassy spokesperson said.

The Australian Crime Commission likewise said it would not comment on operational matters.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak yesterday said he had met with Hun To’s lawyer to discuss The Age’s report and his lawyer would file a complaint imminently.

“I have checked the information, and it’s not true,” Khieu Sopheak said. “Hun To’s name has no record of involvement with drug crimes, and his name does not appear in the blacklist of any global drug network.

“If there were [allegations], the Australian authorities will contact Cambodian authorities, because we have worked closely with Australia on combating drug trafficking,” he added.

Reached yesterday, Hun To’s father, Kampong Cham Province governor Hun Neng, denied his son’s involvement with drug-trafficking or money-laundering crimes.

However, Hun Neng told the Post that Hun To’s wife’s brother-in-law had been arrested on drug-trafficking charges and put in an Australian jail some years ago.

Hun Neng said that due to his son’s chance connection with the felon, whose name he could not recall, Hun To had been accidentally implicated in drug trafficking.

“As I remember, in the early 2000s, To’s wife used his phone to call her brother-in-law, so when that man was arrested, they found To’s number in connection with him, but this problem has been solved already,” Hun Neng said, adding that the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh “knew about this”.

When asked about The Age’s report after his meeting with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong yesterday, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said: “I cannot confirm that news, and I would not comment in any case on a law enforcement matter.”

The Australian Crime Commission’s 2011 organised crime report says that Cambodia, along with Vietnam, remains a springboard for heroin trafficked from Southeast Asia into Australia.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]
Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]

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