Police have arrested four employees of a shadowy organisation that has been implicated in a series of bizarre scandals in multiple countries, holding the men on suspicion of large-scale fraud and forgery.
Ray C Dam, the chairman of ARP-OITC Group Co Ltd, and Soush Saroeun, executive managing director of ARP-OITC, were arrested on Saturday in Phnom Penh, National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said. A source close to the investigation said two foreigners had been arrested as well, though the men did not have passports when they were apprehended and their nationalities could not be confirmed.
The arrests follow an October report in The Post that examined the “Office of International Treasury Control”, of which ARP-OITC is a subsidiary, and questioned the group’s alleged associations with the United States government, the United Nations and HSBC Bank.
Housed in modern offices on Norodom Blvd, ARP-OITC identifies itself in promotional material as an “international real estate consultancy” that also offers loans and “bank instruments” for joint venture partners. The Post confirmed in October, however, that the group is licensed with neither the National Bank of Cambodia nor the real estate department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
“Based on the article, I already found that the company does not have a license from the Ministry of Finance in terms of real estate, their business operation, and since then we advised them that if they want to do business properly in the country, they have to comply with Cambodian law,” Mey Vann, director of the financial department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said yesterday.
“They committed to us that they will ask for the license, but since then, they did not do anything, so we just put the complaint to the investigators.”
Mey Vann said following the original report in October that an inter-ministerial committee, including officials from the ministries of finance,
interior and land management, was looking into the issue.
OITC materials identify the group as “the largest single owner of gold and platinum bullion in the World” and “the largest single owner of Home Mortgage Securities in the World today”, claiming it controls top secret assets and “treasure” all over the globe.
“Much of the treasure is buried in tunnels, bunkers and caves and in sunken ships in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia,” the group says in an investment presentation. “Further treasures are hidden all around the world.”
The OITC claims on its website that it has been granted “Sovereign Entity Status under the United Nations Charter Control No: 10-60847”, and that its assets are given “full International Protection and Immunity under Full Jacket Security Level 3-5 … under the Great Seal of America (No: 632-258894)”. Ray C Dam is identified as an economic adviser to US presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush.
Ben Pursell, a spokesman for the UN Resident Coordinator’s office in Cambodia, confirmed in October that the group is not affiliated with the UN, and that UN “charter control numbers” do not exist.
The OITC’s listed address is in Washington, DC, though American officials have also rejected any connection to Dam or OITC.
“At this point, we have seen no credible information that establishes any employment relationship or other official connection by a Mr. Ray C. Dam with the U.S. Government,” US embassy spokesman Mark Wenig said in an email yesterday.
“If we establish that Mr. Ray C. Dam is an American citizen, we will work with Mr. Dam and the Royal Government of Cambodia in accordance with usual consular practices and procedures.”
Kirt Chantharith said police had investigated Dam “for quite a long time before we made the arrest”.
“We have enough evidence, but police are questioning him to get more details and we will send him to the court within 48 hours” of his arrest on Saturday, Kirt Chantharith said.
“He is accused of forging documents and using forged documents to claim he has assets of roughly US$500 million.”
According to a copy of the investigation report obtained by The Post, Dam is roughly 60 years old and was born in Banteay Meanchey province’s Phnom Srok district, having fled Cambodia for the US following the Khmer Rouge period before returning to the Kingdom in the early 1990s. The report states that Dam was arrested in Cambodia on suspicion of fraud in 1997, though it is unclear how this case was resolved.
In 2006, Dam and two associates were sued by the mayor of a town in Ecuador who claimed she had paid them $20,000 in exchange for a $150 million line of credit that never materialised, according to Ecuador’s El Universo newspaper.
That same year, OITC “chief of cabinet” Keith Scott travelled to Fiji, offering $6 billion to be used toward the creation of a bank for local landowners. Fijian police commissioner Andrew Hughes later said he was “profoundly suspicious” of OITC’s offer, and Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said “no one in their right mind” would inject so much money into such a small economy, the Fiji Times reported.
During an interview in October at the ARP-OITC offices in Phnom Penh, Soush Saroeun claimed the firm was involved in joint ventures with companies from France, Canada and Vietnam, though he did not provide details of the projects.
According to a copy of the contract with the Vietnamese firm, Bao Phu Gia Company, ARP-OITC has guaranteed $100 million in financing via HSBC Bank in exchange for a $200,000 payment from Bao Phu Gia for “bank-mobilisation fees”.
As proof of his firm’s connection with the London-based bank, Soush Saroeun offered a document dated December 29, 2009 and littered with spelling and grammatical errors that was signed by HSBC Group Finance Director “Dr David J Flint”.
As of December 2009, HSBC’s Group Finance Director was Douglas Flint. HSBC spokesman Gareth Hewett said at the time that the bank “tend[s] not to comment on these things”.
Pheng Sideth, a lawyer for ARP-OITC, said he was too busy to comment yesterday. In a letter dated October 30, however, he accused The Post of “creating a story, different from the truth, which damages the honour and value” of the company.
“What was published is fake or exaggerated information with the goal of shocking citizens who use ARP-OITC Group Co Ltd for their business,” he wrote. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH