The casino industry in Cambodia is continuing to grow as gambling establishments and junket operators promote Cambodia’s casino industry to VIP gamblers from Mainland China. The collapse of Macau’s casino industry due to the anti-corruption crackdown has caused thousands of VIP gamblers to look at neighboring locations to gamble and Cambodia has been one of the beneficiaries.
One of the biggest challenges for Cambodia’s casinos is to monitor money laundering activity as the lack of scrutiny into financial transactions has the potential of being exploited by criminals for money laundering purposes. Cambodia’s Financial Intelligence Unit (CAFIU) was founded in 2008 but since then hasn’t investigated any financial institution because the unit does not have the manpower nor the resources to carry out a full fledged investigation.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which is one of the leading international anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing organizations in the world decided to stop monitoring activities in Cambodia since February 2015. Since there is no proper enforcement of money laundering policies in Cambodia, financial agencies and casinos can be exploited by crime syndicates and criminals to conduct money laundering activities.
CAFIU has to investigate around thirty seven micro-finance institutions, thirty eight banks and casinos with just 10 employees. The manpower shortage meant that the organization was unable to conduct a detailed investigation into any organization and hence had never highlighted a suspicious transaction till date.
In a statement, Lorien Pilling, director of UK-based Global Betting and Gaming Consultants said “Given that the majority of Cambodia’s casino visitors are foreign nationals, a rigorous approach to suspicious transactions is all the more important. In any market, it is vital for casinos to know their customers and to prevent gaming floors from being used to launder the proceeds of crime.”
Casinos across the world are targeted by crime syndicates and one of their main rackets is based on money laundering. The lack of scrutiny on money laundering activities in Cambodia’s casinos and the fact that there authorities are not willing to investigation any such activities, makes Cambodia’s casinos a playground for criminals who want to conduct money laundering transactions.
The vice chair of the National Assembly’s finance and audit commission and Opposition MP Son Chhay has gone on record to state that Cambodia is a haven for money launders and the country is losing around $300 million each year due to these criminal activities. Chhay took issue with the current government stating that they were not willing to take steps to address and arrest the issue of money laundering and called for the issue to be addressed at the earliest.