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Cambodian court jails former envoy to South Korea for graft

Posted 6:23 a.m. Thursday
Updated 6:25 a.m. Thursday

— A court in Cambodia on Thursday sentenced the country's former ambassador to South Korea to five years in prison on charges of corruption and abuse of power.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Suth Dina guilty of embezzling at least $117,000 by selling visas, receiving kickback money from Cambodian workers in South Korea, and failing to pay rent on the Cambodian Embassy in Seoul during his two-year tenure. The court also fined him 10 million riel ($2,500).

Suth Dina was arrested in April by the government's Anti-Corruption Unit. The agency said that at the time of his arrest he had $7.2 million in cash — $3 million more than he had at the beginning of his appointment in February 2014. It also found he had stashed away almost 13 kilograms (29 pounds) of gold worth about $500,000.

Suth Dina told reporters the court's verdict was unfair and he plans to appeal it.

Suth Dina used to be an opponent of Hun Sen's government, but joined the ruling party in 2009. Last year he gained attention when he warned Cambodian workers in South Korea to stay away from meetings held by Cambodian opposition leaders, or else risk losing their jobs and getting sent back to Cambodia.

Cambodia has long had a reputation as one of Asia's most corrupt countries, with Transparency International ranking it number 150 out of 168 on its corruption perception index. Widespread graft has become a political liability for Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose Cambodian People's Party fended off an unexpectedly strong challenge in the 2013 general election.

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