Phnom Penh’s real-life private eye





Phnom Penh night: “down these mean streets” (photo by artist Chris Coles)

Yes folks, there’s a real-life private investigator in Phnom Penh. The name is Phnom Penh Investigations, they have an office on street 110, and their Facebook page is fascinating (:

Case #1: scam

Client: A well-respected Cambodian businesswoman had been contacted by a (presumed) previous business associate from the USA via Facebook requesting assistance in opening a Cambodia-based business with an initial investment of $480,000. However, the “American” reported difficulty in wiring the initial investment to her due to “new American banking regulations” and requested to send the client cash instead via DHL.

Investigation Results: Posing as the client, attempts to correspond with the “American” by phone and/or Skype video conferencing were rebuffed.

Subsequently, the “American” claimed that DHL “rejected the shipment” and requested a $2,000 payment from the client to cover DHL’s reported “customs duties” in order to ship the $480,000 cash payment.

The client was advised that it was an obvious “419 scam” and to cease all communications with him/them.

Further investigation revealed that the fraud perpetrators had stolen photos from the actual American business associate’s Facebook page in order to pose as him in an attempt to fool the client. The actual American business associate had no knowledge of this until we contacted him directly by phone.

Case #2: embezzlement

Client: A group of Singaporean clients suspected the NGO they had donated money to in order to build a rural school had embezzled their donations entirely with zero construction nor any charitable distribution of funds.

Investigative Results: The fraudulent NGO in question had indeed embezzled the entirety of the funds donated and the various NGO “directors” listed on their websites/Facebook pages and in email correspondence, etc. were in fact aliases. The “NGO” fraud network had also falsely used the identities of other legitimate Khmer business/charity leaders to perpetuate the scam to foreign donors.

Case #3: international fraud

Client: American national had been defrauded by an “international freight/shipping company” operating out of Central Asia but with associates working in Cambodia.

Investigative Results: Our investigation revealed the fraudulent “shipping company” would steal (high value) packages and reroute them to Cambodia. Associates in Cambodia would then “ransom” the packages by requiring the owners to send Western Union payments to Phnom Penh. The sophisticated criminal network would also provide access to forged online tracking pages and forged Cambodian Ministry of Economy & Finance invoices to elicit fraudulent “customs duties” from unsuspecting clients. Further investigation revealed the criminal network involved an African national and several Khmer and Chinese nationals living/working in Phnom Penh.

The fraud investigation was then turned over to the Cambodian Ministry of Interior due to the network’s use of forged Cambodian government invoices, fraudulent Cambodian VAT numbers, and fraudulent Cambodian business registrations.

Case #4: suspicious death

Client: A foreign client’s brother had been pronounced dead shortly after arriving to a Phnom Penh hospital of a suspected drug overdose. The family believed foul play might have been involved and requested an investigation.

Investigative Results: Following an extensive witness canvassing, including responding police, emergency drug treatment center personnel, etc., all indications pointed to either a drug overdose or adverse drug reaction. Subsequent information from a previous Phnom Penh-based employer indicated the deceased had been terminated several weeks prior due to a drug problem. The family accepted the findings and terminated the investigation.

Cases #4,5,6, 7, 8 and 9: love. (“After conducting nearly 150 infidelity checks throughout Cambodia over the past three years, our investigations have revealed that over 80% of our clients’ spouses/girlfriends/sponsored parties have been unfaithful.” To which I add that a PI will inevitably get a very skewed set of clients.)

“I had suspicions about my husband during his business trips to Asia but I did not know what to do at first. Luckily I found your company during an internet search.

Your staff followed my husband and took photographs of him bringing Cambodian girls to his hotel both in the day time and at night!Thank you very much for your work and professionalism!

-Irina, soon-to-be divorced wife from the US”

Client: Malaysian client (living in Kuala Lumpur) whose Khmer wife was visiting family in Phnom Penh suspected her of drinking to excess and possibly meeting other men throughout the night.

Investigative Results: Surveillance revealed that the client’s Khmer wife was indeed becoming extremely intoxicated each night as she visited numerous bars and clubs in Phnom Penh. The client’s wife also departed the “Pontoon” club one night at closing and accompanied a foreign tourist to his hotel at 5am, presumably for a sexual encounter.

Client: French national had been “sponsoring” a supposed Khmer university student he met online and with whom he had corresponded via webcam for several months. Client had been sending monthly “support payments” to her via Western Union to assist her with her education.

Investigative Results: After finally locating the supposed Khmer “student” in Phnom Penh, investigation revealed that she had been collecting multiple monthly “support payments” via Western Union, presumably from other foreign sponsors she had met online. Further investigation revealed that the subject was not enrolled in the university she claimed and that she was unemployed and living with her parents. However, the subject was surveilled on multiple occasions drinking with her friends at nightclubs such as Nova, Pontoon, Heart of Darkness, etc.

Client: Khmer-American national working in the US wanted to investigate his future Khmer bride who was living with her family in Phnom Penh. The marriage had been suggested by the client’s parents, but the client was suspicious of the chosen bride due to her close working relationships with foreign nationals in Phnom Penh (as required by her work in the finance industry).

Investigative Results: After 200 investigative hours covering one full month of surveillance, our investigators witnessed no improper relationships involving the (future) Khmer bride. Virtually every evening after work was spent with her family or occasionally with Khmer (mostly female) friends in public places.

(“Special discounts are offered for investigations requiring significant investigative hours.”)

Client: Australian national had purchased a hostess bar (lease) in Phnom Penh for his Khmer fiancée, an ex-bargirl. Client had become worried after returning to Australia as his fiancée was no longer responding to his phone calls.

Investigative Results: Investigation revealed that within just days of the client’s return to Australia, his fiancée had already put their hostess bar for sale and was hoping to use the money earned from the sale to build a house in her home province. Further investigation revealed that the Khmer fiancée had, in fact, a Khmer boyfriend working as a tuk-tuk driver in Phnom Penh and that they planned on moving back to their home province immediately after they sold the (Australian) client’s hostess bar.

(I like this one – the cliche reversed)

Client: European national (female) suspected her Cambodian boyfriend of having a local wife and possibly other foreign mistresses.

Investigative Results: Surveillance revealed that the Cambodian boyfriend was indeed married to a Cambodian woman and had one child with her. Investigation also revealed the cheating Cambodian husband had at least two other foreign mistresses who were sending him money from abroad.

Case 10: recovery of stolen property.

Client: Canadian national tracked his stolen laptop to a user in Phnom Penh with the assistance of a computer app that provided remote photos of the user and network and location data.

(Please refer to…/six-security-apps-that-can-help-reco…for further information on this crucial computer security technology.)

Investigative Results: Our investigator located the current user of the stolen laptop and his current employment and discreetly approached his employer to negotiate a settlement (the user’s employer, a large multi-national firm with an office in Phnom Penh, was contacted as the user was conducting company business on the stolen laptop, as verified by the owner’s screenshots of usage).

The Khmer user of the stolen laptop claimed he purchased it from a local computer shop in Phnom Penh and apologized to the client, stating he never would have purchased the laptop if he had known that it was stolen.

They offer other services too – like personal bodyguards for example – this is what can happen to tourists who think they’re still in Kansas:

In a café in Phnom Penh earlier this year, a tourist encountered the wrong person on the wrong day. What began as a verbal exchange with another customer quickly escalated into a violent confrontation. The tourist says that in a fit of rage, his adversary, an affluent local man, stormed over to his bodyguard who was standing nearby. The bodyguard pulled out a handgun, passed it to his “boss” and stood by as he dished out a pistol whipping.

Source: Phnom Penh Investigations on Facebook