After more than more than 100 court appearances over three years, British businessman Gregg Fryett and three of his business associates were handed five- to eight-year prison sentences on Wednesday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Mr. Fryett and his co-defendants, Cambodian-American associates Um Sam Ang and Soeun Denny, and Cambodian Ouk Keo Ratanak, were found guilty by Presiding Judge Chuon Sokreasey for fraud and other crimes related to their efforts to start a biofuel plantation in Banteay Meanchey province.
A military general and lawyer were also convicted in absentia for their involvement in the land deals at the center of the case.
Mr. Fryett received an eight-year sentence and a fine of 10 million riel, or about $2,500, Mr. Sam Ang received a seven-year sentence and a 10 million riel fine, while Mr. Denny and Mr. Ratanak both received five-year sentences and fines of five million riel, or about $1,250.
Mr. Fryett and his co-defendants smoked cigars and drank coffee in the men’s toilets at the court prior to hearing the verdict. Mr. Fryett said he would appeal the ruling.
Hanh Chamrong, a military general who brokered land deals for the company, was handed a nine-year prison sentence and 10 million riel fine, while Ty Pov, a lawyer who helped process the land documents, received a three-year sentence and was also fined 10 million riel.
Judge Sokreasey issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Chamrong, but not for Mr. Pov, and would only say the decision was made at his discretion.
International Green Energy, the firm owned by Mr. Fryett that employed the other three arrested defendants, was fined 100 million riel, or about $25,000.
The four jailed defendants were arrested in 2013 on charges of falsifying documents to purchase land for a jatropha plantation in Banteay Meanchey, defrauding farmers and illegally clearing land.
They have repeatedly denied the charges during 30 months of trial hearings, and Mr. Fryett has argued the prosecution is illegal due to its reliance on evidence collected during an investigation led Ang Mealaktei, the former director of the Banteay Meanchey and Phnom Penh courts, who was found guilty of unlawful exploitation earlier this year for gifting a drug dealer’s seized SUV to his son.
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