Closing Arguments Begin in Yearslong Biofuel Fraud Case

Lawyers in the long-running fraud trial centered on British businessman Gregg Fryett began making their closing arguments at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, more than three years after the trial got underway.

Mr. Fryett and his Cambodian-American associates Um Sam Ang and Soeun Denny, and Cambodian Ouk Keo Ratanak, were jailed in 2013 over a litany of charges related to their efforts to start a jatropha plantation in Banteay Meanchey province that would yield biofuel.

cam photo fryett channa
British businessman Gregg Fryett, on trial for fraud over a failed biofuel project, boards a truck at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday taking him back to prison. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Throughout the trial, Mr. Fryett has repeatedly railed against the judges and prosecutors handling the case as well as the officials—two since jailed in unrelated cases —who seized his company’s equipment and ordered the arrests.

In his concluding remarks on Tuesday, deputy prosecutor Ly Sophana urged Presiding Judge Chuon Sokreasey to convict the four prisoners as well as Dy Pov, a lawyer for Mr. Fryett’s firm International Green Energy (IGE), and military general Hanh Chamrong, who brokered the land deal.

He accused the six of faking documents and maps, and IGE of breaking the terms of the contracts it made with 14 farmers associations and NGOs, affecting nearly 17,000 families and causing many to lose money. He said IGE failed to cover the farmers’ expenses as agreed, or buy their products, before finally breaking off with them in 2011.

“IGE used tricks to persuade farmers to create associations,” he said.

Mr. Sophana said the project also lacked the endorsement of the Council of Ministers or the Council for the Development of Cambodia, as required by law.

In his own closing remarks, Suy Sokhon, the lawyer for Mr. Keo Ratanak, said his client had merely read over a letter before sending it to be signed by officials and that the prosecution had provided no proof that he was involved in faking any documents.

Lawyers for the other defendants will continue making their closing arguments today.

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