The Anti-Corruption Unit had been overwhelmed with complaints and lacked the resources to adequately investigate allegations, ACU chief Om Yentieng admitted yesterday.
Speaking after the swearing-in of more than 70 national police officers as ACU judicial officers, Om Yintieng said he recognised there were critical weaknesses in the operations of the year-old unit.
“We know we do have not enough officers to investigate all these complaints, so our new sworn-in police officers will help our work,” he said. “We have very little operational forces, so it makes our investigations slow.”
Complaints needing investigation were piling up, Om Yentieng said, although he could not offer a precise number of complaints awaiting action.
The addition of 74 national police officers would improve work in the provinces, he said, adding that people outside Phnom Penh knew very little about the ACU’s work -– a shortcoming it vowed to change.
About 200 officials worked with the ACU, which had been fully operational for only about one year and had chiefly been focused on drug-related cases, Om Yentieng told reporters.
The first high-profile ACU drug case involved the January arrest of Moek Dara, former secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs. The disgraced former three-star general was charged with dealing drugs and taking bribes as part of a larger drug racket. He goes to court on Thursday.
“The arrest of Moek Dara is a key to the arrest of more drug criminals,” Om Yintieng said.
The ACU chief also praised the work of corruption investigators to date.
“Each investigation has been precise,” he said, adding that at the recent trial of former Banteay Meanchey police chief Hun Hean and his deputy Chheang Sonn, lawyers for the accused drug criminals could not argue the ACU’s watertight case against them.
“They could only ask the court to reduce their clients’ sentences,” he said.
Moek Dara had 38 separate drug charges stacked against him and, given his high-ranking position, “only one or two convictions out of 38 charges will spell a lifetime in prison for him,” Om Yintieng said.
“This is a big case . . . and shows the capacity of our court system,” he said.
Yim Sovan, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said he did not believe the ACU’s work was effective. “Corruption is everywhere, from the top to the bottom,” he said. “ACU is just to hide the corruption of senior and powerful officials.”