Ieng Sary Did Not Stash Funds Overseas: Son


2013-04-01
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cambodia-ieng-sary-2012.jpg Ieng Sary talks in the courtroom during his trial for war crimes at the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh on March 20, 2012.
AFP PHOTO / NHET SOKHENG / ECCC

Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary’s son has denied reports that his father hid funds in an overseas bank account before he died last month while on trial for war crimes.

News reports said in recent weeks that among the assets the co-founder of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime held was a Hong Kong bank account that at one point contained U.S. $20 million in funds funneled to the movement by the Chinese government.

Any hidden funds, along with other assets, could have been handed over as reparations to Khmer Rouge victims had Ieng Sary been convicted by Cambodia’s U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal before his death at age 87 on March 14.

But because he died without a sentence, all of Ieng Sary’s assets remain within his family.

Ieng Sary’s son Ieng Vuth, the deputy governor of Pailin province, on Monday denied that his father had kept any funds set aside in a foreign bank account.

“All I know is that it is not true; this is about politics,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service, dismissing the reports as one of many “false allegations” against his family.

He said his family had not hidden any ill-gotten gains amassed during the Khmer Rouge era before Ieng Sary’s 1996 defection to the Cambodian government.

“If we had gotten millions of dollars before our defection as we are accused of, he would not have hidden it.”

Finance minister

Ieng Sary was in charge of Khmer Rouge finances in the 1980s and 1990s and was believed to have accumulated a huge personal fortune from gem mining and logging in the Thai-Cambodian border areas he commanded around Pailin and Banteay Meanchey province’s Malai district.

In addition to that wealth, Ieng Sary had access to a bank account in Hong Kong through which China funneled millions of dollars to the Khmer Rouge over many years, according to the Youk Chhang of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, local media reported.

“Ieng Sary was the name on the account,” Youk Chhang told the Cambodia Daily newspaper, citing a now-deceased former Khmer Rouge finance official, Comrade Rith, and four other Khmer Rouge officials.

Ieng Sary defected from the Khmer Rouge in 1996 after striking a peace deal with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who initiated a royal amnesty for him.

Until his arrest in 1997 for his trial before the Extraordinary Chambers of the Court of Cambodia (ECCC), Ieng Sary lived a comfortable life, dividing his time between his luxurious villa in Phnom Penh and his home in Pailin.

Khmer Rouge tribunal

In the tribunal, Ieng Sary denied the charges against him, saying he had no knowledge of the mass executions that came to define the Khmer Rouge regime, and claimed he had no powers of arrest.

Ieng Sary’s death prompted calls from rights groups and the U.N. to speed up proceedings for the remaining two Khmer Rouge defendants, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, 81, and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 86. Both have suffered strokes and are in frail health.

The ECCC has so far completed just one case, sentencing former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.

Ieng Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, the Khmer Rouge regime’s social affairs minister, was deemed unfit for trial last year after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Led by the notorious Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge killed an estimated 2 million Cambodians through starvation, overwork, or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

Reported by Taing Sarada for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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