A former businessman claimed yesterday he had become a victim of an alleged scam now embroiling the office of Senate President Chea Sim nearly a decade ago, raising questions as to why complaints remained uninvestigated for years.
Chhum Vandy told the Post Chea Sim’s chief of protocol, Pheng Kunthea Borey, had ripped him off after he signed a contract – authorised by Chea Sim and worth US$3 million – to build the capital's Phnom Penh-Samdech Chea Sim Friendship Hospital in December, 2001.
He said he had loaned Pheng Kunthea Borey US$23,000 before the contract was even signed and subsequently borrowed hundreds of thous-ands of dollars to build the facility.
He is now homeless and unemployed after being reimbursed just $80,000 for the project.
“My family and I have now become poor because of her. I am happy to know she has been arrested and [detained in] jail,” he said, adding that he had first filed a complaint against the protocol chief in 2006 but no action had been taken.
Pheng Kunthea Borey was charged with fraud and falsifying public documents last month and has allegedly defrauded at least 51 foreign companies, earning commissions from fake contracts brokered. Her lawyer has denied any wrongdoing.
Chea Sim’s former advisers Chan Kosal and Ponlork Ho, together with former cabinet member Khieu Bora and former bodyguard chief Chhoeun Chanthan, have also been arrested and charged. At least one more alleged co-conspirator is wanted by police.
Police said yesterday two more businessmen planned to file lawsuits against Pheng Kunthea Borey today.
Spokesman for the National Military Police, Kheng Tito, said: “They are business people who have been defrauded and cheated by Pheng Kunthea Borey many years ago. They did not dare to sue her while she was in power because they were afraid of her power.”
Yim Leang, the recently appointed chief of Chea Sim’s Bodyguard Unit, yesterday “applauded” those who had filed complaints against Pheng Kunthea Borey and urged more victims to come forward.
But Carlyle Thayer, a professor of politics and the University of New South Wales, said yesterday that Chea Sim – who made the complaint that led to the arrests – had to take some responsibility for the crimes that had allegedly taken place in his office.
“You can’t just blame low-level people for this, it’s too extensive now and you’ve got to look at the man at the top [Chea Sim] and he needs to explain himself to the Cambodian people,” he said.
The fact that a scam embroiling such a high-ranking politician had not been hushed up indicated factional forces were likely at play, Thayer claimed.
“The system in Cambodia is one without regulation …and now it’s been exposed, it indicates that someone in the government, probably someone on Hun Sen’s side, is allowing this [investigation] to happen.” Chea Sim’s cabinet chief Mam Sarin hung up on a reporter yesterday.
On Monday, Malaysian ambassador to Cambodia Mohd Hussein Bin said the embassy was investigating an unregistered company from his country called Fasfik that has been connected to a fake US$120 million contract for a supposed vocational training centre allegedly drawn up by Pheng Kunthea Borey.