British Businessman Maintains Innocence in Forgery Case

The British businessman at the center of a fraud case involving plans to grow a jatropha plantation in Banteay Meanchey province once again took the stand on Monday in a convoluted trial that has recently centered on the legitimacy of documents used to secure land.

Greg Fryett, who is charged alongside four others for allegedly creating and using fake documents to purchase and clear land in 2009, was pressed at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over official maps used by his company, International Green Energy (IGE).

Gregg Fryett arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Gregg Fryett arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Presiding Judge Chuon Sokreasy accused him of using “modern computer technology” to alter the maps.

“We categorically did not forge any documents,” Mr. Fryett responded.

He explained that in mid-2009, he and Um Sam Ang, a businessman he had known from earlier ventures in Cambodia, had visited multiple locations while looking for a suitable site for the jatropha tree plantation, which they planned to use to make biofuel.

Mr. Fryett said they ultimately settled on the purchase of a 5,079-hectare economic land concession (ELC) in Svay Chek district. He said he had purposely distanced himself from dealing with the paperwork surrounding the sale.

“It is nothing to do with me—on purpose. I employed people to do all this,” he said, noting that documents such as the environmental impact assessment and land transfer documents “looked like professional documents,” but were in Khmer, making it impossible for him to authenticate them.

“It is the role of the trustee, the lawyers, the professional service providers—it has nothing to do with me,” he said.

Mr. Fryett and four fellow defendants were arrested in 2013, and their trial has since moved along at a glacial pace as suspects and witnesses have repeatedly been called to answer questions about various aspects of the business venture.

Throughout the day Mr. Fryett stressed that U.K.-based financial services company Citadel had checked all of the documents related to the land sale, which had also been audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, with both firms having deemed everything to be in order.

In the afternoon, deputy prosecutor Ly Sophanna projected a map of the ELC in the courtroom and asked Mr. Fryett to verify its authenticity.

“It looks like the document that was sent to the trustees,” he said. “I don’t know if that is a forgery, as my trustee in England tells me that it’s OK.”

When asked by Mr. Fryett from where the prosecution had obtained the map, Mr. Sophanna said it had come from an IGE computer.

“So I received these documents from the sellers for land we had purchased, and I am complicit in making false documents?” Mr. Fryett asked Mr. Sophanna in frustration. “How does that work?”

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