Inquiry links Cambodian leader's nephew to drug trafficking, money laundering

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Nick Mckenzie and Richard Baker March 26, 2012

AUSTRALIAN police suspect the nephew of Cambodia's Prime Minister is involved in a heroin trafficking and money laundering syndicate targeting Australia.
But a plan to arrest and question Hun To in Melbourne was thwarted because his application for a visa was denied by the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh, with one official citing the need to avoid a diplomatic incident. The targeting of Mr Hun To by an Australian Crime Commission inquiry that ran between 2002 and 2004 is one of several incidents that suggest strong and continuing links between Australian crime figures and Cambodia.
The Herald can also reveal that Sydney crime figures have been investing millions of dollars in suspected drug funds in big businesses in Cambodia, including those tied to influential government and business identities.
The revelations came after the Herald on Saturday reported that Australian officials had uncovered a global crime syndicate importing more than $1 billion worth of drugs into Australia annually and with connections to government and policing officials in Asia.

The inquiry that targeted Mr Hun To was called Operation Illipango and investigated the shipment of heroin to Australia from Cambodia in loads of timber.
As the nephew of the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, Mr Hun To is a powerful and feared figure in Cambodia and was once considered a close business associate of the country's richest man, Kith Meng, who owns the Royal Group.
Operation Illipango investigated suspected drug funds taken to Crown Casino in Melbourne where - under the suspected oversight of Mr Hun To - they were then moved to Asia.
Mr Kith Meng had numerous dealings with Mr Hun To during Mr Hun To's suspected organised crime activity, although the Herald is not suggesting Mr Kith Meng is involved in organised crime. The Royal Group has formed joint ventures with ANZ and Toll Holdings on projects in Cambodia.

The plans to arrest Mr Hun To were derailed after his visa was cancelled.
The only person charged with drug trafficking in connection to the commission's inquiry was a Cambodian, Phenny Thai, a lowly associate of Mr Hun To. Phenny Thai was described in the Victorian Supreme Court in 2005 as having "strong connections with powerful people in Cambodia which facilitated his business enterprises".

Among other Australians with suspected organised crime links to Cambodia are a Vietnamese-Chinese family in Sydney who own a well-known Asian restaurant. Police inquiries have determined that in the past decade, this family have helped send more than $10 million to Cambodia, including money suspected to be derived from drug trafficking.
Some of that was used to fund a casino on the Vietnamese border. In 2006, an associate of this family told an Asian news service that the casino business maintained ''a good relationship with the Cambodian government".
The revelations are part of research for The Sting, a new book on organised crime in Australia, published by Melbourne University Press.