Cambodia’s ambassador to South Korea has been charged in Cambodia with a string of corruption offences.
Mr Suth Dina was questioned yesterday by the Anti-Corruption Unit following a probe into his spending and complaints by Foreign Ministry staff and Cambodian migrant workers.
The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) alleged Suth Dina had amassed $7.2m in cash, $3m more than when he began his tenure in Seoul in 2014.
They allege he made more than $100,000 (£72,000) selling visas and kept insurance payouts meant for Cambodian workers who died in South Korea.
Mr Dina denies the charges, which carry a possible sentence of 15 years.
He told reporters outside court on Thursday that his arrest on Monday was “unjust”.
At a news conference in Phnom Penh, ACU head Om Yentieng said investigations into his finances had also uncovered 500 pieces of jewellery and 12.7 kg of gold, worth around $500,000.
He is also accused of misusing large amounts of official funds.
“We have a lot of evidence. Primarily that he embezzled money worth $116,995 by selling visa stickers,” Om Yentieng told reporters.
Yentieng said the body had received multiple complaints against the ambassador, who earlier this month revealed he was under investigation in a Facebook post which claimed the probe was a “setup”.
“First, we have received a lot of complaints from workers; and secondly, from officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs both in Phnom Penh and in Seoul have filed complaints too. Thirdly, we have seen complaints on Facebook,” Yentieng said.
Yentieng also revealed the Ministry of Economy and Finance had audited Dina’s spending and issued two reports, while ACU investigators had also visited South Korea to pursue the complaints.
“We have sent our six officials to South Korea, including Seoul and five provinces … to meet complainants, witnesses and victims and we also interviewed His Excellency Suth Dina once before in Seoul. This is the second time we are hearing his answers.”
Saying the investigation would not take long, Yentieng estimated that there was a 90 per cent probability that the complaints against the ambassador merited investigation.
“Therefore we invited him,” Yentieng said. “This is the procedure.”
“After having announced whether to detain him, we have 48 hours to make a report and send it to the court,” Yentieng said.
Speaking anonymously, a source with knowledge of affairs at the embassy informed The Phnom Penh Post that Dina’s tenure was marred by irregularities.
The source also claimed the ambassador employed his family members to do official work, for which he was censured in 2014 by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, according to media reports.
“There were some irregularities,” the source said. “The ACU has enough evidence. His arrest is a huge reform and people who live and work in Korea are happy to hear about this.”
“The embassy provided poor service and Dina threatened to arrest workers. He sometimes spent between $700 to $800 on dinner and a drove a car worth $70,000. Where did the money come from?”
Suth Dina is a former anti-government student activist who defected to Prime Minister Hun Sen ‘s ruling party in 2009. He was made ambassador to Seoul in February 2014.
Cambodia is ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt countries by Transparency International.
Since its creation in 2011, the ACU has arrested dozens of people, including a foreign ministry official arrested last week for allegedly taking bribes from a overseas company.