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Officials charged with extortion

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Pursat provincial Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction director Liem Bunroeun (centre) and two deputies have been placed in pre-trial detention for allegedly extorting $100,000 from a factory owner in exchange for granting a construction permit. Photo supplied

Officials charged with extortion

The three senior officials from Pursat provincial Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction who were arrested by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) on Saturday for allegedly extorting $100,000 from a factory owner in exchange for granting a construction permit have been placed in pre-trial detention.

Municipal court deputy prosecutor and spokesman Kuch Kimlong told The Post that Liem Bunroeun, the land management department director, Cheang Vuthy, his deputy in charge of construction permits, and Te Buntheng, an administrative official in charge of the department’s One-Window services, were charged on Wednesday.

“The prosecutor charged the trio with three crimes. First is a misappropriation of public funds under the Criminal Code. Second is an abuse of power under the Anti-Corruption Law. And third is money laundering under the Laws on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing for Terrorism,” he said.

ACU president Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

San Chey, the executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the three officials would not be able to evade justice given solid evidence against them and after Prime Minister Hun Sen gave a direct order for their arrest.

“It’s normal for the government to take action against bad officials as a warning to others who would otherwise make the same mistakes."

“Those who were thinking of committing similar crimes must be worried now and must be having second thoughts after seeing a real example,” he said.

Fresh News reported that the three officials were arrested on Saturday at a restaurant in Pursat province, where they had arranged to meet with the factory owners to collect a deposit.

The trio initially demanded $40,000. When the factory owners bargained, they refused to issue a construction permit. When the owners finally gave in, the officials increased their demand to $100,000 and asked for a deposit of $50,000.

The factory owners reportedly gave the first deposit of $5,000 to the department director inside his office on Friday and agreed to pay the remainder the next day at the restaurant where the officials were arrested in a sting operation led by the ACU president.

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