Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, family members and key police, business and political associates have overseas assets worth tens of millions of dollars. Using their wealth to buy foreign citizenship.
Among those who have acquired or applied for European Union passports through a citizenship for sale arrangement in Cyprus are: Hun Sen’s niece and her husband, who is Cambodia’s national police chief; the country’s most powerful business couple, who are old family friends; and the finance minister, a long-time Hun Sen adviser.
Photos on social media also show Hun Sen’s relatives enjoying luxurious European lifestyles. Boating in Capri, skiing in Verbier, partying in Ibiza. Which are at odds with the prime minister’s self-styled image as a humble leader.
Hun Sen is 67 and has ruled Cambodia with an iron fist for more than three decades. He has jailed or exiled political rivals, shut down media outlets and crushed street protests.
Only three men have controlled their countries for longer: the presidents of Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo. If Hun Sen stepped down tomorrow, Vladimir Putin would have to rule Russia for another 15 years to match his time in power.
Yet challenges remain for Hun Sen. Popular dissatisfaction still simmers, say political analysts. In February, responding to his crackdown. The European Union began a process that could suspend Cambodia’s special trade preferences. This will potentially damage industries that employ hundreds of thousands of workers.
Cambodia’s political and business elite is on edge, a government insider told Reuters. “Everyone is making an escape plan,” he said.
Hun Sen’s government didn’t respond to questions from Reuters for this article. Hun Sen’s relatives and associates also chose not to respond. With the exception of one member of the extended family. Hun Panhaboth, the son of another niece, defended his lifestyle to Reuters through his Facebook page.
An Instagram photo shows him driving a Mercedes while holding a fistful of banknotes. “I really don’t see the harm in that anyways,” he said.
One Cambodian with overseas assets is the prime minister’s niece, Hun Kimleng. Photos posted on Instagram by a family nanny helped lead Reuters to a posh apartment in central London. Its situated only a few hundred meters from the palace of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Hun Kimleng bought the apartment in 2010 for $2.5 million, according to official property records. It could now be worth at least $4.5 million, estimates the real estate website Zoopla. She also owns a multi-million-dollar apartment in a luxury condo in Singapore, according to the Singapore Land Authority.
In 2016, she became a citizen of a foreign country: Cyprus.
Getting a Cypriot passport also makes the niece a citizen of the European Union, which Cyprus joined in 2004. This gives her the right to live, work and travel without visas in 28 EU countries.
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