The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has arrested two employees of a local company linked to a British biofuel firm currently under investigation by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), an official said Friday.
ACU President Om Yentieng said that International Green Energy (IGE) director Oum Samnang, and another unnamed employee at the company, were arrested Wednesday in Phnom Penh and have been charged with forging land documents.
“I can confirm that the ACU has conducted an investigation on this case for eight months. We listened to testimony from a lot of people, and we have looked into a lot of evidence,” Mr. Yentieng said.
“Over the last few days, we also collected and listened to further answers and confessions. Through this thorough investigation and collecting evidence, we found that two men are guilty of a crime. We charged them with forging land documents in a attempt to sell land for big revenue.”
IGE is the local partner of Sustainable Agro Energy Plc., a London-based company that had its assets frozen in February 2012 just prior to an announcement in March by the SFO that it was investigating the company for a fraud worth more than $54 million.
Sustainable Agro Energy chairman Gregg Fryett said he had also been questioned by the ACU.
“I am fine, but there are some issues for other people and now the land sellers also I think,” he said in an email.
“I did talk to the Cambodian [ACU] at length. I am back in Thailand now and free to travel as I have always been.
“I am more than happy to assist with ACU inquiries into the land sale and equipment issues ongoing. A report has been sent to my lawyers for the SFO and the Administrators. I am sure there will be more developments on this directly.”
Investigators in the U.K. have claimed that up to 2,000 Britons lost savings as a jatropha tree plantation in Banteay Meanchey province ran into problems and company directors allegedly siphoned off funds.
Mr. Yentieng said the pair arrested on Wednesday had been sent to the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on Thursday, as the case relates to land in the province. He declined to give additional information about the case, saying that doing so might jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
Provincial Court President Ang Mealtey confirmed that “two Cambodian nationals from IGE” had been sent to the court, declining to elaborate.
Sustainable Agro Energy from 2007 sold investors stakes in biofuel plantations that promised to pay high returns. But investigators say that the company did not really have the assets it claimed in Cambodia and elsewhere. The SFO has not answered questions on the case since it announced it was investigating.
The company’s major interests in Cambodia are two economic land concessions in Banteay Meanchey’s Svay Chek district totaling more than 6,000 hectares.
The company never officially acquired the rights to the concessions, but negotiated a price of about $2 million to buy them from businesswoman Mao Malay, the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan.
After funds stopped arriving at IGE in Cambodia from the troubled British partner, equipment was stolen and fires started on the land, where work had already begun on setting up the plantations.