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Police seize $3.5M in cash from men at Phnom Penh airport

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Police seized more than $3.5 million from three men on April 23. Photo supplied

Police seize $3.5M in cash from men at Phnom Penh airport

Three Chinese nationals were charged with money laundering on Sunday after they were caught attempting to bring more than $3.5 million into the Kingdom.

The three men have been held in detention by police for the past week after they were caught smuggling wads of $100 notes amounting to $3,520,000 in their bags at Phnom Penh International Airport after arriving from Hong Kong last Tuesday.

Authorities have claimed that the size of the cash haul is unprecedented in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana on Sunday said Wang Shiping, Wang Lichao and Zhang Jian were officially charged under articles 3 and 29 of the Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism.

“After looking into the case and questioning the suspects, the prosecutor ruled to hold a hearing on charges of money laundering. Their cases will be forwarded to the investigating judge to proceed with the procedures,” Sophana said.

Article 3 of the Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism describes money laundering as “the conversion or transfer of property, knowing that such property is the proceeds of offence, for the purpose of concealing or disguising the illicit origin of the property or of helping any person who is involved in the commission of the offence to evade the legal consequences of his or her action.”

Article 29 stipulates “any person who neglects to provide report on cash and suspicious transactions . . . will be sentenced to imprisonment from one month to one year, and will be subject to a fine from 1,000,000 riel up to 5,000,000 riel [$250-$1,250] . . .”

The National Police on its website said the three had claimed that some of the money was won from gambling in Macau and some was borrowed from their relatives. They said the money was brought to the Kingdom to be invested in the real estate sector.

The police said that the cash had been confiscated and the suspects arrested as a result of the men failing to provide proper provenance for the money.

The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration issued a similar report, stipulating that Shiping and Lichao claimed that some of the cash was borrowed from their siblings, some was won through gambling, while the remaining sum was from investment interests. In addition, Jian claimed he was simply asked to carry the money for the other two.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Three Chinese nationals were charged with money laundering on Sunday following their arrest last week. Photo supplied

“Based on the interrogation and review of documents of the three suspects, the General Department concluded that the two suspects indeed had smuggled more than $3.5 million in cash into Cambodia without clear sources,” the ministry’s report read.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak told The Post on Sunday that Cambodia welcomed the importing of money into the Kingdom as long as it came from a legitimate source.

“We are elated [that] money is being brought into Cambodia, as long as it is lawful, because the importing of money into the country is beneficial for the Kingdom’s economy."

“However, please be mindful that any amount exceeding $10,000 must be declared and subject to tax. In other countries, we are also only allowed to bring in money of that amount,” he stressed.

Sopheak added that “the seizure of more than $3 million is a first in Cambodia and the circulation of such a large amount of cash is unprecedented”.

Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol regards money laundering as a criminal offence that could threaten national and regional security.

“I welcome the action taken by the authorities to detain the suspects and confiscate the cash. If offenders dared to smuggle dozens of million on the flight with strict security checks, we must be prudent and pay greater attention to any border checkpoints,” Kol said.

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