A handful of Cambodia's wealthy foreign investors have
well-established mafia-type links and are deeply involved in money laundering
activities due to lax financial and banking laws, Finance Minister Sam Rainsy
"There are some so-called investors in Cambodia who are in fact
the representatives of the mafia established in Hong Kong and Thailand," said
Rainsy in an interview last week.
"These mafia are big businessmen from
Thailand and Hong Kong involved in gambling, narcotics and money laundering," he
said, in a reference to criminal gangs known in Asia as triads.
accused one reputed local mafia boss of involvement in an unlawful killing in
Rainsy, who has received several death threats, described the
banking situation in Cambodia as a "facade" which operates like a giant
A combination of lax financial regulations governing the banking
industry and a booming cash economy made ideal conditions for money laundering,
Cambodia is emerging from decades of civil war. Rainsy, a
Paris-trained accountant, belongs to the first government elected in free and
fair elections last May, following a United Nations-managed
Government leaders say crime and public security are as
serious a problem as the continuing insurgency by the Maoist-inspired Khmer
"It's an appealing place for money laundering - it's as if
Cambodia is a big, big casino - the whole of Cambodia is a big casino," Rainsy
He vowed that new investment and banking laws would bring the
country in line with acceptable international standards and would contribute
greatly to the demise of criminal activities in the banking
These laws have been drafted with the help of the United
Nations Development Program, and should pass through the parliament within the
"Most of these banks have nothing to do with the banking
industry - it's a facade. Behind the facade is a lot of illegal activities," he
Rainsy also launched a fresh attack against one of Cambodia's
biggest business tycoons, Teng Bun Ma, chief executive of the Thai Boon Roong
He accused the Thai Boon Roong company of illegally owning "more
than half of Sihanoukville," Cambodia's southern port city long-renowned as a
major smuggling center.
If Thai Boon Roong failed to accept the new
package of banking and investment laws then, Rainsy said, he would seize the
Sihanoukville properties and "return them to the state."
Ranariddh has confirmed that Thai Boon Roong holds half of Sihanoukville and
[he] is determined to take back all the illegal properties in
"We will take a bulldozer and destroy the fences and
clear all these so-called Thai Boon Roong properties," he said.
Ma, a Sino-Khmer who travels on a Thai passport, holds a massive property
portfolio in Cambodia and is involved in several highly controversial
The two men are bitter enemies. Teng Bun Ma had
previously used his influential newspaper, Reasmey Kampuchea, to accuse Rainsy
of trying to destroy the economy.
Rainsy said recent death threats he had
received, in which someone was offering $40,000 to kill him, were linked to
influential underworld figures. The government had given him 10 bodyguards for
protection, the minister said. - Reuters