Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried a 43-year-old businesswoman on a forgery charge following allegations that she defaulted on a $1 million loan from a CPP lawmaker’s family and claimed to represent one of the lawmaker’s family members.
Ing Rithea borrowed money in 2007 from CPP Lawmaker Chea Chamroeun and his family, and then forged a message from Mr Chamreoun’s sister-in-law Chap Bonavy giving Ms Rithea permission to represent her, according to Ms Rithea’s lawyer and Mr Chamroeun’s lawyer.
The money was used to renovate six markets in Takeo, Kratie, Kampot, and Kompong Chhnang provinces. Ms Rithea was initially charged with breach of trust after her April arrest, but during the trial Deputy Prosecutor Heang Sopheak requested the charge be changed to fraud.
“I have charged her for fraud and forging private documents and please court punish her according to the law,” he said.
In court Ms Rithea said she only borrowed $450,000 and reinvested profits from her venture in other projects as per her agreement with Mr Chamroeun’s family.
“I never had the intention to cheat money from them,” she said.
She admitted that she forged Ms Bonavy’s signature on a message that gave her permission to represent Ms Bonavy in a meeting with finance officials in Kratie. She said she did so only because Ms Bonavy was busy, and she didn’t want to lose an investment.
Chap Bonavy, who is asking for $3 million in compensation, said in court that Ms Rithea had agreed to pay back the borrowed money after she made her initial profits.
According to a statement from Mr Chamroeun read aloud in court, he said that Ms Rithea told him in January that if he did not loan her more money, she would lose her investment in authorities.
Ms Rithea’s lawyer Chea Hey said that Ms Rithea should not have been charged criminally as Ms Rithea had already transferred properties including the markets to Mr Chamroeun.
“It’s a contract case,” he said. “My client had no intention to create this case, and my client also transferred one house and six markets already,” he said.