Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sar Kheng concerned over laundering

Sar Kheng concerned over laundering

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Minister of Interior Sar Kheng was presiding over the swearing-in ceremony for the capital’s newly elected councillors at Phnom Penh Municipal Hall on Wednesday. Facebook

Sar Kheng concerned over laundering

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has expressed concerns that recent money laundering cases involving huge sums will see Cambodia placed on a global financial blacklist.

He called on the authorities to crack down hard on the crime or the Kingdom would be “dead” as it suffers resulting difficulties in transferring money internationally.

Sar Kheng, who is also deputy prime minister, was presiding over the swearing-in ceremony for the capital’s newly elected councillors at Phnom Penh Municipal Hall on Wednesday, during which he said Cambodia was already under monitoring after being placed on the organisation’s “grey list”.

“Just one more step and we could be put on the blacklist if we don’t forcefully crack down [on this crime]. Those who commit this crime benefit but it is only they who do. They take money to buy land and this makes land prices increase."

“The nation will be dead in the sense that one day Cambodia could be placed on the blacklist because of money laundering. This is the end. I cannot say 100 per cent, but we would face huge hardships. There is a huge risk of this happening,” Sar Kheng said.

In February, Cambodia was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list after being removed in 2015.

The FATF is an intergovernmental organisation that tackles money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

In late April, authorities arrested three Chinese nationals at Phnom Penh International Airport and confiscated $3.52 million. In May, another Chinese national was arrested at the airport, with $855,000 seized.

All those held said the money was brought in from Hong Kong.

Sar Kheng said authorities had forwarded the cases between each other but had not investigated the source of the money.

“In such cases, [you] must report to me immediately. The money is now at the bank. But there must be investigations to see where it came from. The suspects said the money was won from gambling. But there is no evidence of this. So what should we do?"

“If the money was legitimate, they would not look for others to help them move it,” he said.

Sar Kheng said the suspects sought people to help move the money by promising them a 10-50 per cent share.

“Why so generous? They said if it could be brought in, they were willing to give away 50 per cent of the money. If it was legitimate money, they wouldn’t need to do this. So this indicates that it’s not legitimate."

“This [order] will make those who benefit [from money laundering] uneasy, but we must do so for the honour of our nation. It is not a simple task – it is complicated, like drug crimes,” he said.

Deputy chief of National Police Dy Vichea said around $14 million had been confiscated in the first haft of this year.

Vichea, who is also the Ministry of Interior’s central security department director, told The Post last week that money laundering offences had increased due to the complexity of the crime.

“The offence of laundering money is nothing new. But because the nation has developed and technologies have advanced, we are training our officials so they do not fall behind the advancements. Our officials are not unskilled, but rather, there has been a surge in such offences.

“We need to focus our attention and want them to show interest because offences are cracked down on every day but we don’t always know which offences involve money laundering,” Vichea said.

Preap Kol, the executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said Sar Kheng’s concerns were valid.

He said while the recent successful crackdowns on money laundering at Phnom Penh’s airport should be attributed to the authorities, they also raised alarm as to the size of the problem.

“It is just the tip of the iceberg. Seaports and land borders must be watched more closely,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Mother, daughter killed in hotel fire

    The bodies of a mother and daughter were found locked in an embrace after they were killed in a hotel fire in Phnom Penh at around 3:30am on Wednesday at the Phkar Chhouk Tep 2 Hotel and Restaurant in Phsar Doeum Kor commune, in the capital’

  • EBA withdrawal a destruction of EU achievements, PM says

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the EU’s possible suspension of its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement amounted to a destruction of its achievements in the Kingdom and the demise of the opposition group. Hun Sen made the remarks while addressing more than 6,700 students during

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • Kingdom calls on Japan to increase number of direct flights to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

    Cambodia is requesting Japan to increase the number of direct flights from Japanese cities and provinces to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, so as to contribute to increasing cooperation and tourist numbers between the two countries. During the opening ceremony of 3rd Japan Travel Fair

  • Sri Lanka’s LOLC Holdings plans to sell Cambodian unit

    LOLC Holdings Plc, Sri Lanka’s second-largest publicly traded company by revenue, plans to sell its 70 per cent stake in Prasac Microfinance Institution Ltd, which also counts Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia Ltd. as a shareholder, LOLC deputy chairman Ishara Nanayakkara said. Nanayakkara