Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Khmer Times, and is being reprinted here by the author after being removed from the aforementioned website.
Many employment relationships end badly here in the Kingdom, but few culminate in your former employer sending a hired mercenary and convicted murderer to hunt you down.
But that’s just one of the accusations levelled against Leo Clifton, the controversial British owner of K9 Cambodia – a dog business which he started, allegedly after his previous venture selling nitrous oxide gas to party-goers was no longer viable.
His company’s website describes the outfit as an elite dog training and breeding facility – the best in Cambodia – but his growing army of critics, that includes former clients, employees and business associates, say it’s little more than a complex scam.
Clifton is accused of a staggering variety of acts of criminality, cruelty and negligence by at least a dozen individuals who have testified on the record to Khmer Times, and are now rallying against him.
Alleged Lies, Fraud and Manipulation
“Lying to customers was routine when working for Leo, it was part of the business plan,” says Wouter Symons, a dog trainer who left after he’d had enough of Clifton’s lies and abuse.
“He doesn’t subscribe to any kind of ethics we’d consider normal. He has his own set of special rules.”
“He sells people the wrong dogs for extortionate prices, advertises them as pedigrees from abroad when they’re actually inbred and from Cambodia or Bangkok puppy farms,” says Damion McCollum, one of Clifton’s most disgruntled customers.
Former associates and employees confirm this, and allege that Clifton often forced them to sell sick, sub-standard and inbred dogs.
“He even continues to advertise and provide veterinarian services when he has no qualified vet on site. It’s disgusting,” adds Symons, who now trains dogs freelance.
Clifton is also accused of levying additional taxes on the sales of his dogs and services – which can cost thousands of dollars – before having a registered business and could apply any taxes, according to multiple former employees, including former business partner Andrew Turley.
Former clients are also complaining that their dogs simply weren’t trained properly, despite having paid fees in the thousands and having surrendered their animals for months on end.
“We paid around $10,000 for advanced protection training for our dog that was supposed to take 2 months,” says Yulia Khouri, who formerly worked for the United Nations before becoming a corporate CEO in Phnom Penh.
“But after 10 months she was still untrained and we drove down to Sihanoukville to demand our dog back. Then we discovered he’d also been using painful electric shock collars on her without our permission.”
Khouri and her partner – two of Clifton’s former customers pursuing legal action – label Clifton a manipulative fraudster who should be forced out of business.
Amongst the most disturbing accusations levelled against Leo Clifton’s K9 Cambodia are those of cruelty against the dogs in his care, who are routinely neglected according to multiple former employees.
[Name removed], a trainee veterinarian nurse held back tears as she told Khmer Times of how Clifton manipulated and coerced her into staying at K9 Cambodia longer than she wanted.
She also stayed because she felt an obligation towards the animals, she says, who had little to no medical care after the facility’s main veterinary surgeon, Dr. Ettiene Urgell, quit in protest.
“Clifton put me in some very difficult and uncomfortable situations where I had to assist an unqualified and unlicensed Khmer guy do urgent surgeries because Leo refused to spend money on the local vet, Dr. Roman Kuleshov,” said [name removed].
Dr. Kuleshov’s much-used veterinarian practice was jealously looked down upon by Clifton, according to former employees, who say he frequently said he wanted to “destroy” the popular vet.
“My young puppy was also killed by Leo’s dogs – which he “trained” himself – and that was only the first dog I saw die because of his negligence. I had to put her down myself,” says a tearful [name removed].
Dogs were routinely diagnosed and treated by untrained staff, including Clifton himself, report K9 whistle-blowers. This resulted in multiple deaths of client’s dogs, later blamed on natural causes or other illnesses.
“He’s a barbarian that’s forcing employees to do things they’re not capable of or qualified to do,” says Dr. Ettiene Urgell, who returned to France when it became clear how unprofessional Clifton was behaving.
“He constantly ignored my professional advice, preferring instead to rely on Google or simply prescribe cannabis oil.”
One dog, who had his intestines removed and operated on by unqualified staff – allegedly at the orders of Clifton – died after a “torturous” procedure that required him to be seen by another local vet who couldn’t save him.
Former employees or clients who’ve spoken out against Clifton say they have suffered smear campaigns and psychological warfare in response.
Some have been labelled mentally ill or simply been shrugged off by Clifton as disgruntled and jealous former associates.
But as the weight of critical testimony against him mounted earlier this year, three very senior employees left K9 – two deciding to start their own business – resulting in their former boss deciding that words weren’t enough anymore.
“After Leo became increasingly unstable around his staff and essentially threatened the life of a female employee, it became clear to some of us that we had to leave,” says Ross O Siochain, K9’s former Sales & Marketing Manager.
“It was then that I realised that Leo was not just a paranoid fantasist, but a dangerously unstable man.”
The Mercenary For Hire
Khmer Times has seen convincing and compelling evidence that Leo Clifton, outraged by former employees leaving with intent to establish a competing business, hired a well-known mercenary in an effort to track them down and “deal” with them.
Ross O Siochan and his partner couldn’t believe their eyes when messages from K9’s Skype account – which they were still logged into – pinged onto their smartphones.
They watched, horrified, as Clifton hired a Bangkok-based man, a self-confessed “mercenary” and “deniable” for $2,500 via chats and meetings.
The infamous Australian contractor – who has been identified by Khmer Times, but won’t be named for safety reasons – once served five years in prison for murder, conspiracy to murder and attempting to overthrow a foreign government.
As he was hired to hunt down the couple, Leo Clifton simultaneously bragged to his brother in another Skype chat about what the mercenary would do to them.
“He’s due a good kicking and she’ll be so scared that she’ll pack up and leave Cambodia,” he said in a message seen by the couple, and later shared with Khmer Times.
“This is not the sort of man that you hire for his mediation skills,” the couple told Khmer Times. “We watched as Leo agreed to pay [him] the money once he had received some sort of signed contract, at this point we contacted the Thai police.”
“The last message that we saw was [name removed] reporting to Leo that he had been stopped and interrogated by Thai authorities. We don’t know if he was allowed into Cambodia and eventually he [Clifton] changed the Skype password.”
As allegations that include fraud, animal cruelty, abuse and working with international criminals mount, Clifton faces calls for criminal investigations – in Cambodia and abroad – as well as private legal action against him.
Clifton hasn’t replied to multiple attempts to obtain comment on the numerous allegations against him.
Authors note: The name of a woman in this article who previously described Clifton’s alleged activities in Cambodia back in 2015, has been removed by the author to protect her identity and dignity after she became the complainant in a 2016 police investigation in the United Kingdom related to new criminal allegations of stalking and harassment against Leo Clifton.