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Offshore holding linked to minister

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana at a meeting in 2011.
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana at a meeting in 2011. Hong Menea

Offshore holding linked to minister

Just months after Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana publicly denied having any offshore investments, the Post has obtained documentary evidence from the Singapore business registry to the contrary.

Kim Santepheap, a spokesman for the minister, yesterday repeated the denial, saying Vathana had never heard of the company in question, OITC Holdings PTE Ltd.

But non-resident shareholders are required by Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) to produce a copy of their passport and a notarised translation of a utility bill to prove their identity and address upon registration.

A register of members for OITC obtained by the Post from ACRA lists a passport number for Vathana, although spokesman Santepheap said he did not believe it.

However, one source with intimate knowledge of Singaporean registration procedures said yesterday that anyone who held shares in a Singaporean company would be highly unlikely to be unaware of it.

“It’s not possible,” they said. “They’re quite stringent with any new applications, even if it is a foreigner, there are some supporting documents required.”

That Vathana had any offshore business interests first came to light in May of this year when one of his investments – British Virgin Islands-registered RCD International Ltd – turned up in the Panama Papers, hundreds of thousands of documents leaked from the offices of law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The names on OITC Holding PTE Ltd’s registry of members match those on RCD International Ltd, once again placing the justice minister in the company of individuals known for dubious business dealings.

Fellow shareholders Ray Chhat Dam and Soush Saroeun were arrested in late 2010 following an investigation personally ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The pair had been claiming to represent a fictitious UN agency and touting a poorly faked letter of credit from HSBC for $100 million as part of an alleged attempted fraud.

Dam did not respond to requests for comment, and Saroeun yesterday insisted the Singaporean company had been terminated, despite ACRA records stating otherwise.

Another shareholder, Chan Wai Kong Arthur, is currently listed as CEO of another British Virgin Islands company, GIO (B.V.I.) Ltd, which sells black market financial instruments. He also previously used OITC Holdings PTE Ltd – under the earlier name Gainwell Holdings PTE Ltd – to offer financial instruments offering a 100 percent annual return on investment. Both he and two of his partners in GIO (B.V.I.) Ltd have been criticised for perceived crooked business practices, but none of the three answered requests for comment.

The final RCD/OITC shareholder is Lek Bopha, a former adviser to the Council of Ministers, who hung up on a reporter when called for comment.

In an email this week, Transparency International country director Preap Kol called for an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) into Vathana’s business affairs after examining the registry of members.

“Senior public officials in the Government that seriously and genuinely seeks to fight corruption should refrain from engaging in any business that has a bad reputation or is under suspicion of malpractices or corruption,” Kol said. “The Government of any country should ensure that none of their senior cabinet members are investing in such a controversial business.”

ACU president Om Yentieng did not respond to a request for comment.

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