Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Wife of Environment Ministry Secretary of State Denies Knowledge of Alleged Online Scam Gang Renting Her Building

A man works near a DBLY Tower in Phnom Penh on September 15, 2023. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)
A man works near a DBLY Tower in Phnom Penh on September 15, 2023. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)

The wife of an Environment Ministry secretary of state denied knowledge of an alleged online scam gang inside a Phnom Penh apartment complex owned by her company. 

Last Monday, police raided DBLY Tower in Chroy Changva district and arrested a group of more than 20 Japanese nationals for allegedly running online scams inside the building. The complex is owned by the real estate firm DBLY Group, which lists Tun Theavy as chairwoman. Theavy’s husband is Environment Ministry Secretary of State San Vanty, social media posts indicate.

“I don’t know who [the arrested people were] because I rented out to [a Khmer person] and now I cannot contact them too,” Theavy told CamboJA over the phone. “I do not remember his name.”

She said she only learned of the arrests last Thursday and was also seeking more information from authorities and did not answer further questions. 

Environment Ministry spokesperson Phay Bunchhoeun said this was a personal matter. 

“This case is an individual issue, you contact His Excellency San Vanty, I dare not to comment,” he said. 

Vanty, previously an Agriculture Ministry secretary of state, could not be reached for comment.

Phnom Penh Municipal Immigration Police Bureau Chief Chea Chetra confirmed the arrests but declined to comment saying that the Central Security Department and Intelligence Department were working on that case. Police seized cell phones, laptops and other materials, the Japan Times reported. 

A CamboJA reporter visited DBLY Tower last Friday, finding the gate locked and no visible staff present.

DBLY Group is a Cambodia-based “family owned company” specializing in real estate and serviced apartments, according to its website. DBLY lists another director as a woman named Srey Mom with ties to the Jesuit Mission (Cambodia), Commerce Ministry records show. Theavy is also chairwoman of a company called DBLY International, also listing Yung Leangsim as a director. Leangsim could not be reached for comment.

A cropped photo of Tun Theavy and Environment Ministry Secretary of State San Vanty, along with three children, posted on Theavy’s Facebook in 2022. (Tun Theavy Facebook)

The location of the  DBLY Tower apartment was a quiet site, next door to an unfinished apartment building and near an empty plot of land. 

A neighbor living nearby, Ech Kosal, said that he wasn’t aware of having Japanese residents in the apartment complex but claimed there were Vietnamese.

“The condo was quiet when [they] accessed in and out and always kept the gate closed,” he said.  “Only people living there can access it.”

“We are worried, but we can’t doubt it because we don’t know what their businesses are inside,” Kosal said. “We have seen that they opened a mart and coffee shop but do not have people to work there.”

A fruit vendor who gave her name as Sreyneang said: “I just saw they have arrested those people, but I don’t know what they have done. I dare not say, but somebody said there was online fraud.”

Seak Meng, a coffee seller beside an unfinished apartment nearby, said that police had asked her whether there were Japanese coming to drink her coffee. 

“There were some people drinking [coffee] and at the gym in the morning but I did not pay attention to them,” she said. “I am driving on the road everyday, I don’t know what happened [inside] but that place is very quiet.”

The Japanese Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to a request for comment and National Police chief Sar Thet declined to comment, referring questions to his spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun, who could not be reached for comment.

Additional reporting by Jack Brook.