Cambodia ambassador to South Korea faces fraud charges
Apr 11, 2016 10:33 PM EDT
A former anti-government student who defected to Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen's side in 2009 and eventually appointed ambassador to South Korea faces charges of corruption. Suth Dina, who became envoy to Seoul in 2014, faces a maximum jail term of fifteen years, if convicted of all the charges.
Investigators of the government's Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) allege that Dina's assets increased by $3 M during his tenure as the top Cambodian diplomat to South Korea, AP reported. He denied charges of wrongdoing telling reporters that "My arrest is unjust," as he entered the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to hear accusation of embezzlement and abuse of power.
ACU said in a statement that their investigation revealed Dina had $7.2 M in cash, a substantial increase from $4.2 M when he assumed his ambassadorial position two years ago. He also owns 13 kilograms (29 pounds) of gold worth $500,000.
The anti-corruption watchdog sent investigators to South Korea where thousands of Cambodians work to uncover their findings. Soon after assuming his post as ambassador, Dina was criticized by former Foreign Minister Hor Namhong for allowing his relatives to interfere with the affairs of the embassy. Last year, Dina warned Cambodian workers in Korea against attending opposition meetings or risk losing their jobs and be repatriated.
Cambodia is ranked as one of the world's most corrupt countries and the stigma has become a political albatross on long-staying Prime Minister Hun Sen whose Cambodia People's Party narrowly escaped with a victory against an unexpected strong challenge from the opposition in the 2013 general election.
Yom Ontieng, head of ACU, said in a press conference that Dina embezzled $180,000 from the embassy and that any asset of Dina, if illegally obtained, can be seized, according to Herald Courier.
ACU also alleges that Dina kept insurance payouts for Cambodian workers who died in Korea, said Age Times.
ACU has arrested dozens of people including a foreign ministry official for allegedly taking bribes from an overseas company.