Two men have been arrested and charged after allegedly impersonating fisheries inspectors for more than a year and collecting about US$30 per month from 20 unsuspecting illegal fishermen, police said yesterday.
Seng Sokcheat, chief of police in Kandal province’s Sa Ang district, said Chhin Chhorn, 23, and Sdoeung Tuor, 42, would face court today after being caught in the act of extorting money.
“More than 20 fishermen in Koh Thom and Sa Ang districts were catching fish with illegal equipment and bribing supposed fishery officials 130,000 riel ($32) each month in order to allow them to continue,” Sokcheat said.
The two men, from Preak Russei village in Koh Thom district’s Kampong Kong commune, were detained after the illegal fishermen filed a complaint, but their ringleader, Sun Tina, 40, evaded capture.
“According to research, the suspects used to be investigation agents for fisheries officials who monitored the area for illegal fishing,” he said.
Police had tracked down and arrested the two men, who were not wearing uniforms or carrying identity cards, in the process of collecting cash from the fishermen.
“They will be sent to court today,” Seng Sokcheat said.
“If guilty, they will be imprisoned for up to three years.”
It is not clear whether the illegal fishermen will face criminal charges.
Klaing Vannthul, director of Kandal province’s administration office, said imposters tarnished the reputation of fisheries officials.
“I will consult with the prosecutor in the future about how their case is proceeding,” he said.
“I will check to see if there are more offences that these men can be accused of.”
Klaing Vannthul said fisheries officials had not done anything wrong nor had they extorted money from illegal fishermen.
Officials had researched the case as a way of ensuring fisheries officials continued to follow and comply with the law, he said.