Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministers deny links to Tokyo to embassy scandal

Ministers deny links to Tokyo to embassy scandal

Ministers deny links to Tokyo to embassy scandal

Minister of Tourism Veng Sereyvuth has denied accusations that he and Minister of

the Council of Ministers Sok An illegally diverted millions of dollars in funds derived

from the lease of a portion of the Cambodian embassy complex in Tokyo in 1996 to

Prime Minister Hun Sen and President of the National Assembly Prince Norodom Ranarridh.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has accused the two ministers of diverting $5 million

in lease payment funds to their respective party leaders.

"I went to France two months ago and met with [former Cambodian Ambassador to

Japan] Truong Mealy in private and he told me that Veng Sereyvuth and Sok An received

$5 million [in lease payments]," Rainsy told the Post on Dec 13, repeating an

allegation he'd made the previous week during the current debate on the 2001 budget.

Ranarridh deferred comment on the matter to Kong Vibol, Funcinpec Secretary of State

of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF), who said any corruption connected

with the Tokyo embassy was solely Mealy's responsibility.

Allegations of corruption regarding the financial management of the Tokyo embassy

were first raised by Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong in August. Nam Hong announced

that the findings of a 1998 audit report of the embassy's financial operations indicated

a missing sum of $439,208.

Cambodian government documents obtained by the Post show that in Dec 1995 Sok An

and Sereyvuth negotiated annual lease payments of $622,498.88 with Katayama Corporation

for the use of 5306 square meters of floor space in the Cambodian Embassy in Tokyo.

When contacted by the Post this week by email at his home in Paris, Mealy carefully

distanced himself from Rainsy's allegations of corruption, but said that he had personally

forwarded lease payments in the amount of $5 million dollars to Sok An and Sereyvuth.

"The $5 million [was] paid by Katayama Corporation and I...[sent it] through

international banks from Tokyo via New York and Singapore to our Foreign Trade bank

[to] the bank accounts of their Excellencies Sok An and Sereyvuth," Mealy wrote.

On Dec 18 Sereyvuth dismissed the allegations that he had misappropriated government

funds.

"I would like to confirm to all lawmakers today that I have never taken the

$5 million...and have never seen the money."

Mealy insists that investigators seeking to trace the missing money should look elsewhere.

"With regards to the allegations of corruption [by myself], as far as I am personally

concerned, they are totally not true," he said.

Repeated attempts by the Post to contact Sok An regarding the corruption allegations

were unsuccessful.

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