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Consumer & Business Advice
Associations & Cooperatives
27 June 2014

The former President of the Cambodian Association of South Australia (CASA) was today convicted of six counts of improper use of his position as an officer to obtain a benefit and was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment. A non-parole of six months was set.

An exhaustive investigation and prosecution by Consumer and Business Services (CBS) led to today’s conviction of Seng Chaing Kong for breaches of the Associations Incorporation Act.

The Elizabeth Magistrates Court heard that Kong used $135,000 of the Association’s loan monies to purchase his own fruit and veg business, which he continues to profit from.

He then used $23,930 of the Association’s money to make repayments on the loan in addition to making personal repayments.

The court was told of the profound impact Kong’s actions have had on the Association, and the local Cambodian Community, as the Association was a crucial support for Cambodian people settling into Australia as refugees in the early 1980s.

Senior Solicitor Zoe Thomas, for the Crown, said in submissions that the Association has always relied solely on Government funding and this offending leaves the Association with an almost insurmountable task of regaining the trust of the community and its credibility with funding agencies.

Ms Thomas said that whilst Kong has recently paid back the money taken plus interest, restitution was some two years late and general deterrence must take precedence over any matters of mitigation in this matter.

Upon sentencing, the Magistrate said that a clear message needed to be sent to the community, that this type of offending is unacceptable behaviour as it involved a significant breach of trust.

In his role as President, Kong had access to these funds and blocked attempts by the Association to investigate discrepancies in the accounts. The Magistrate also noted the impact on the Association’s ability to carry out its core role, that its credibility had been lost and its reputation cannot be recovered easily.

The sentence was not suspended and Kong was immediately imprisoned. Acting Commissioner Dini Soulio welcomed the sentence.
“This investigation by CBS has been thorough and complex, and I’m pleased that this sort of abuse of position has been discovered and punished appropriately,” Mr Soulio said.

“This result sends a strong message to people in positions of trust in Associations to not treat the Association as their personal bank account.”

Addendum: The defendant Seng Chaing Kong pleaded guilty to six counts of making improper use of his position in an incorporated association contrary to section 39A(3) of the Associations Incorporation Act 1985. He was sentenced to a total of 20 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of six months. The defendant appealed against the sentence, arguing that it should have been suspended. On appeal, the defendant submitted psychiatric evidence of his post-traumatic stress disorder and argued that imprisonment would have an significant adverse effect on the defendant’s mental health. Justice Sulan accepted the evidence and suspended the sentence of imprisonment upon the defendant entering into a good behaviour bond for two years and to be under supervision of a Community Corrections Officer for 12 months.