Fertilizer Scam Referred to Anti-Corruption Unit

The case of a Battambang provincial government official ac­cused of embezzling some $200,000 in state funds has been referred to the Anti-Corruption Unit in Phnom Penh, provincial officials said Thursday. Battambang Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Long Hokmeng said a two-week investigation into the case brought against Seng Ratanak, deputy bureau chief of Battambang’s department of agriculture, had turned up signs of corruption. … After being arrested on September 2, Mr. Ratanak confessed to police that he had sold thousands of tons of fertilizer—donated by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA)—to poor farmers at inflated prices and kept the majority of the proceeds, which were intended for the Ministry of Agriculture. … JICA, the Japanese government’s international aid arm, has opened its own investigation into the case after learning that the proceeds from 4,650 tons of fertilizer donated under a scheme aimed at increasing food production among poor farmers had been misappropriated by a government official. Further, JICA’s head of public relations, Yukiko Kitazawa, said on September 9 that future support of the project would depend on improvements made to the government’s monitoring of such schemes. …

Eang Mengleng and Matt Blomberg