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Swedes drop Mobitel case

Swedes drop Mobitel case

Sweden's public prosecutor, Christer van der Kwast, confirmed his government dropped

December 12 an investigation into alleged bribery and corruption charges against

a senior executive connected to Mobitel.

However, the Phnom Penh-based legal advisor who drew up the report on which the prosecutor

based his decision, said he was surprised at the conclusion drawn from his report.

The corruption investigation into Mr M. A. Zaman, a Swedish citizen, stemmed from

Mobitel's 1997 offer, and Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, So Khun's acceptance,

of a paid 'honorary advisor' position to Mobitel's board of directors. The position

was worth $2,500 a month.

Van der Kwast said although the advisory fee would be illegal in Sweden, it needed

to be illegal under Cambodian law for his government to prosecute. The report from

the Phnom Penh-based legal advisor, he said, indicated it was not illegal. He added

that this report was the most influential factor in his decision.

The legal advisor who authored the report insisted on anonymity: he had done the

review, he said, as "a favor for a Swedish friend" and was assured it would

be confidential. He said his report stated it would be politically difficult to pursue

the case in Cambodia, but made no judgment as to whether the action was illegal.

In fact, he said, prima facie evidence suggested it was against Cambodian law, particularly

Mobitel's offer of cash to the minister. It was, he agreed, a breach of Article 120

of the Constitution, the highest law in the land. However, he added, his report was

based on possible breaches of the Criminal Law, rather than the Constitution, as

it was the former that contained the "substantive provisions".

One reason why it might well be illegal under the Criminal Law was that the fee was

paid to the minister "while the Minister had overall responsibility for handling

applications and decisions of considerable commercial importance and value for Mobitel".

Beyond the tussle over legal opinion, though, was the more heavyweight pressure from

political influence. The Post has also obtained letters written October 15 by two

senior CPP politicians to the speaker of the Swedish parliament. The letters were

released under Sweden's Freedom of Information Act.

The letter writers, former prime minister Heng Samrin and current deputy prime minister

Sar Kheng, requested Sweden drop the investigation into Mr Zaman. That, van der Kwast

admitted, had also made a difference.

"Of course, in my investigation, [it counts for something] that Sar Kheng and

Heng Samrin have these thoughts about it, and that they made a statement to Brigitta

Dahl [the Swedish speaker] about this," he said.

"The [reason] the investigation has ended is for technical reasons," van

der Kwast concluded. "Under Swedish law I cannot prosecute if I am not able

to prove that this was a crime in Cambodia. In Sweden it is a crime, and [Mr Zaman]

is a Swedish citizen. However, they are not giving the information and the statement

from Cambodia [that it is a crime]."

Van der Kwast said that if further evidence came to light in the next six months,

before the statute of limitations expired, then the investigation could be re-opened.

In his letter, Sar Kheng confirmed that Minister So Khun, "has been acting as

a paid advisor to Mobitel", but denied the minister was guilty of any crimes

under Cambodian law.

"We have also been informed that Mr Zaman [head of Mobitel Sweden] is detained

in Sweden for bribing H.E. Mr So Khun. We are very sad to hear that," Sar Kheng's

letter continued. "Mr Zaman is a responsible, sincere and honest man and a Chairman

of a respectable company. Therefore I would like to request you to please drop all

charges against him and Mobitel and release him immediately with full honour."

Sar Kheng stressed that "if news gets out, this could create serious fear in

the minds of foreign investors". He wrote that Son Chhay's letter to the Swedish

parliament was seen by foreign investors as "a negative tool to drive foreign

investors out".

Heng Samrin's letter was sent in his capacity as acting president of the National

Assembly. Samrin similarly dismissed the accuracy of Son Chhay's information saying

it "did not present the correct situation and information". It went on:

"Neither Mobitel nor its Director Chairman has done anything which could be

considered illegal in our country."

"Therefore please drop all charges base [sic] on wrong information provided

by Mr Son Chhay about Mobitel, its director and Chairman of Mobitel," the letter

concluded.

The letters from Heng Samrin and Sar Kheng followed information passed to the Swedish

government by opposition MP Son Chhay of alleged corrupt practices involving Mobitel.

Son Chhay was at the time chairman of the National Assembly's committee dealing with

telecoms, but was sacked from his position September 13 in a CPP-Funcinpec maneuver.

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