HLH Cleaner Questioned Over Attempted Extortion of CEO

Military police on Monday questioned a cleaner who works at the Phnom Penh headquarters of the Singapore-based HLH Group over her involvement in the attempted extortion of the development company’s CEO by a guard and inmate at the Kandal Provincial Prison, officials said.

On Sunday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged prison guard Leng Sokleang for colluding with an inmate, Sao Kosal, to extort $50,000 from Johnny Ong Bee Huat, HLH Group’s CEO and executive deputy chairman. Mr. Sokleang was arrested Friday when he tried to withdraw $10,000 of the money from a Wing mobile-payment kiosk.

Mr. Sokleang allegedly purchased a mobile phone for Mr. Kosal, who used it to threaten to kill Mr. Ong if he didn’t transfer the $50,000, according to military police, who began investigating the crime after receiving a complaint from Mr. Ong on September 16.

But Mr. Kosal first used the device to contact Sok Thim, 50, a cleaner at HLH Group’s office in Phnom Penh, in order to obtain Mr. Ong’s phone number, according to Khim Daravuth, deputy director of the municipal military police’s investigation department.

Mr. Daravuth said Ms. Thim was merely “tricked” into giving Mr. Ong’s number to the prisoner.

“We released Ms. Thim because her responses showed that she is not involved in the case,” he said, adding that Ms. Thim told authorities she and Mr. Kosal knew each other because they had grown up in the same village.

A fellow prison guard who drove Mr. Sokleang to the Wing kiosk on Friday was questioned by military police on Saturday, but was also released.

Mr. Daravuth said Monday that he has not yet received orders to transport Mr. Kosal from the Kandal prison to the Phnom Penh court for questioning.

Contacted by email, Mr. Ong declined to comment.

“I don’t wish to disclose anything regarding this case, if you want to find out more please ask the police directly,” he said.

HLH Group is the parent company of HLH Agri International, which is the operator of HLH Agriculture Cambodia.

HLH Group announced in June that a subsidiary, D’Lotus Development, had plans to purchase 1.35 hectares of land in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood from Shukaku Inc., a private firm that in 2007 was awarded a 99-year lease for 133 hectares in Boeng Kak and proceeded to evict some 3,000 families from their homes.

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