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Rainsy rails at mafia money laundering

Rainsy rails at mafia money laundering

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

claimed.

"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.

He also

accused one reputed local mafia boss of involvement in an unlawful killing in

Singapore.

Rainsy, who has received several death threats, described the

banking situation in Cambodia as a "facade" which operates like a giant

casino.

A combination of lax financial regulations governing the banking

industry and a booming cash economy made ideal conditions for money laundering,

he said.

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

transition.

Government leaders say crime and public security are as

serious a problem as the continuing insurgency by the Maoist-inspired Khmer

Rouge faction.

"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

said.

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

profession.

These laws have been drafted with the help of the United

Nations Development Program, and should pass through the parliament within the

next month.

"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

said.

Rainsy also launched a fresh attack against one of Cambodia's

biggest business tycoons, Teng Bun Ma, chief executive of the Thai Boon Roong

company.

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."

"Prince Norodom

Ranariddh has confirmed that Thai Boon Roong holds half of Sihanoukville and

[he] is determined to take back all the illegal properties in

Sihanoukville."

"We will take a bulldozer and destroy the fences and

clear all these so-called Thai Boon Roong properties," he said.

Teng Bun

Ma, a Sino-Khmer who travels on a Thai passport, holds a massive property

portfolio in Cambodia and is involved in several highly controversial

development projects.

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

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