Commune Chief’s Pyramid Scheme Bilks Villagers

More than 60 families in Kam­pot province’s Banteay Meas district claimed that their commune chief pocketed thousands of dollars from a village-wide investment scheme before he fled Wat Ang Khang Tbong commune late last month, officials said.

Sam Mom, 58, said she borrowed a total of $7,000 from local mo­ney lenders, Acleda Bank and NGOs after Touch Saman, the Wat Ang Khang Tbong commune chief, encouraged her and other vil­lagers to take part in the investment scheme.

Now, Sam Mom and 64 other families from three villages must pay back their loans, district governor Chhay San said Monday.

“I have nothing to pay back this debt,” Sam Mom said. “The commune chief cheated me.”

Under their own names, other families borrowed $250 to $500 and gave the cash to Touch Sa­man, Chhay San said. In return the commune chief paid villagers a $5 to $10 down payment on their in­vestment returns, he said.

Then, the commune chief loan­ed the money to other people in the area at a higher interest rate, said Sam Mom. When the chief fled last month he took with him a total of $40,000, she said.

“I sympathize with these villagers,” the district governor said. “Their commune chief cheated them.”

Villagers lodged a complaint at Kampot provincial court against Touch Saman shortly after he fled on June 26.

Banteay Meas district po­lice are still investigating villagers’ complaints, said district po­lice Chief Svay Chhan. So far, no war­­rants have been issued for the com­mune chief’s arrest, he said.

“I don’t know his whereabouts,” the district police chief said. “The villagers did not complain to my office,” he said.


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