Suth Dina, the disgraced former ambassador to South Korea, offered a fiesty defense of his actions in his first court hearing, saying the alleged monetary impropiety he is accused of only happened because of the embassy’s previous ambassador, who he claims left it in financial ruin. He was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) on April 4 after police found him with $7.2 million in cash – $4 million more than he had when he left Cambodia – as well as 12.7 kilograms of gold and 500 valuable gems, all of which they believe was acquired since he became Cambodia’s ambassador to South Korea in 2014. In February, a Cambodian monk in South Korea posted a video on Facebook alleging that Foreign Ministry officials illegally issued service passports for Cambodian migrants, allowing them to work in South Korea after receiving bribes of between $7,000 and $8,000. Mr. Dina and embassy officials initially denied responsibility and said they were working to secure the release of migrant workers who were subsequently detained for having the wrong passport. After their investigation, the government accused Mr. Dina of a variety of serious crimes, including the outright embezzlement of $180,000 from the embassy as well as the running of a scam through the embassy where he sold visa stickers in South Korea and kept all the profits for himself. The ACU says Mr. Dina often transferred large sums of money between bank accounts in Cambodia and South Korea and also accused him of skimming money from the embassy meant for the health insurance of Cambodian migrant workers across South Korea. In response, Mr. Dina said he was being used as a scapegoat for the embassy’s longstanding money problems, telling the court that he was the one “receiving the broken stone” from the previous ambassador, who he says left a number of debts unpaid and generally mismanaged the office. Presiding judge Kor Vandy will announce the verdict on December 1.
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