Court Hears $2.5M Land Concession Fraud Case

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday heard the case of an agribusiness owner who accused a broker of defrauding him of $2.5 million after failing to process documents that would allow him to develop a land concession in Mondolkiri province.

Eab Pay, owner of the Kasekam Khmer Angkor agricultural company, said he made a number of payments to the Suon Mean Sambath Company starting in 2011 in exchange for helping him obtain a 9,160-hectare concession to develop a rubber plantation. In total, he paid out $2.5 million for the land.

However, the broker, Suon Mean—who did not appear in court—was charged with fraud in March 2014 after Mr. Pay claimed he had been unable to develop the land because Mr. Mean had not submitted the relevant documentation on his behalf.

Mr. Pay said that although the concession had been granted, Suon Mean had failed to submit to the government the documents that would allow him to start clearing land and planting rubber trees, including an environmental impact assessment and land registration information.

“I was cheated because documents have not been completely processed,” Mr. Pay said, adding that he was demanding that the defendant repay him the full $2.5 million he had paid to the company, plus $1.2 million in compensation.

Leng Lihour, a lawyer for Mr. Mean, denied the accusations and claimed that his client could not submit the remaining documents because the Ministry of Environment revoked the concession in October last year.

“The reason that my client did not complete his duty is because this was the demand from the government,” Mr. Lihour said. “The government took back the land concession in order to share it with the people.”

“The government took land back from more than 20 companies…. All this showed that it is not the mistake of my client but it is the mistake of [Kasekam] Khmer Angkor company, which has violated the principles of the government,” he said.

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