Cambodia has dismissed allegations of wrongdoing by an anti-corruption pressure group that said the prime minister and his family owns or partially controls at least 114 domestic companies spanning various sectors, which are worth around $200m.
The report titled "Hostile Takeover" released by watchdog Global Witness alleges that the premier and his family are amassing vast personal fortunes, and have a tight grip on most of the country's lucrative industries such as trade, finance, energy and tourism, with links to big global brands like Apple, Visa, Nokia, Unilever, Nestle, Honda and Durex.
The allegations come at a time when political tensions are on the rise between Hun Sen and the opposition party, which hopes to challenge his grip on power in the 2017 local elections and in the general elections in 2018.
The report finds that about 90% of the companies have a family member of Hun as a chairperson, director or shareholder with more than 25% of total stakes, which gives them substantial control.
Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said the organisation has been investigating issues such as illegal logging in Cambodia for decades.
"It has no quality. It is just accusations. The report is personal propaganda against Hun Sen, the elected prime minister," Siphan told Reuters.
The report elaborates: "The Hun family includes a shady cast of characters. Among them are members once implicated in a $1bn heroin smuggling operation, shoot-outs, a fatal hit-and-run, and land grabs that have caused mass displacements, environmental destruction and destitution among Cambodia's rural poor."
The group says, the findings of the report should ring alarm bells among Cambodia's business partners. It adds: "The Hun family are major gatekeepers to the influx of foreign capital into Cambodia, and the litany of abuses they are linked to pose significant legal, financial and reputational risk to companies and investors."
According to the group, only Sok Puthyvuth, one of the sons-in-law of the Hun family, replied to the requests for comments on the report. It quoted him as saying: "I can understand your assumption that I have abused my power to get to where I am today, but I can assure you that I take seriously the challenge of building a responsible and respected private sector group. I admit it is a work in progress. I understand that I live in the shadows of my family."
A senior member of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party welcomed the report. Another member of the party, Son Chhay, said: "We all knew it but nobody could really talk about it. Now it's all public."
In recent times, Hun has been pulled up by European Union to end what it calls judicial harassment of opposition politicians.