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Rainsy to sue foreign companies

Rainsy to sue foreign companies

A Canadian company that was recently awarded a municipal garbage collection contract

will become the third foreign company operating in Cambodia to be taken to overseas

courts by politician Sam Rainsy, who has alleged corruption in all three companies'

dealings with the government.

The other two companies are Sweden's Millicom SA, parent company of MobiTel, and

French construction company Vinci, the parent company of airport concessionaire SCA.

The leader of the opposition plans to file suit against the three under the 1998

OECD convention combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business

transactions. Canada, France and Sweden are all OECD member countries, and those

found guilty could be fined and imprisoned for up to ten years.

Rainsy has targeted Canada's Cintec Group, the parent company of Cintri Cambodia

Ltd, which recently signed a much criticized deal with the municipality to take over

garbage collection in Phnom Penh. He admits his suit is currently no more than a

presumption, but felt evidence would be found to back his claim.

"[Cintec] is unfairly taking advantage of Cambodia and managed to get a very

dubious contract with the municipality for garbage collection. This is just unacceptable,"

Rainsy said, alleging the contract was clouded by corruption. "This has been

done under the table, in an non-transparent manner."

The president of Cintri Cambodia, Franco Pacetti, denied Rainsy's allegations.

"I'm not at all worried about being sued by Sam Rainsy because we haven't done

anything to be fearful of," said Pacetti. "There has been no corruption

or bribery from Cintri Cambodia."

Pacetti confirmed that the contract with the municipal government was signed in March

and said it would be in force by May.

"I don't think [Rainsy] has correctly understood, but we were not awarded any

contract in this case," he continued. "All we have done is purchase certain

assets of PSBK [the current garbage collection company], namely the balance of 47

years on the waste collection contract."

Rainsy claimed the contract did not contain any clauses guaranteeing Cintri's performance

and said the municipality had no means to cancel the contract even if the company

failed to operate collection and disposal services. Pacetti disputed that.

"This is entirely false and without foundation," said Pacetti. "If

we do not conform and respect our obligations, the municipal government can end the

contract."

Rainsy also said that as garbage collection fees are to be included on electricity

bills, customers would be blackmailed into paying or face electricity cuts. Pacetti

did confirm that Cintri Cambodia has an arrangement with Electricité du Cambodge

to include garbage fees on customer's electricity bills, stating that one of the

main reasons was to ensure payment.

"Three or four different companies have tried to implement a system and not

been able to and we've been told that it is largely due to non-payment," he

said. "It is ludicrous to suggest that we can charge whatever prices we feel

like. We will not increase prices."

The second company Rainsy has started legal proceedings against is French construction

company Vinci, whose subsidiary, SCA, won the contract to construct and manage both

Phnom Penh's and Siem Reap's airports until 2020.

"Vinci's [contract] for Pochentong was non-transparent; they can change the

contract at their will. Their contract for Siem Reap airport is a cash cow and they

charge very high airport taxes," Rainsy said. "The only possible motive

is corruption."

SCA's chairman, Joel Velasque, was in France and could not be contacted for comment.

Rainsy said the Vinci case had not yet been lodged in court, but it will be the first

of the three to do so. He claimed to have witnesses - former Cambodian civil servants

- who would back up his claims.

The third company is Millicom SA, parent company of Cambodian telecoms firm MobiTel

which paid the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, So Khun, $2,500 a month

beginning in 1997 to act as an "honorary advisor" to the MobiTel board

at the time the minister was awarding telecoms contracts. MobiTel's general manager,

David Spriggs, was also unavailable for comment.

"It is important that we make good use of such a powerful tool [the OECD convention]

and I hope that other developing countries that are being abused by dubious companies

use this legal weapon to fight international corruption," Rainsy concluded.

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