Court Questions Lawyer in Jatropha Fraud Case

An attorney who is among six defendants in a fraud case involving the purchase of a sprawling swath of land in Banteay Meanchey province, which was meant to become a jatropha plantation, was questioned Wednesday in an ongoing trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Ty Pov, a lawyer who was hired by International Green Energy (IGE), a firm headed by British businessman Gregg Fryett, who is also on trial, has been charged with accepting bribes to issue false documents and forging public documents. On Wednesday, he defended himself against the former charge.

Presiding Judge Chuon Sokreasey said that Mr. Pov was paid more than $380,000 by IGE from 2010 to 2012, which he said was meant to guarantee that the attorney would endorse a deal to secure a 6,097-hectare economic land concession for IGE.

“Totally, $380,600 was bribery money,” the judge said.

Mr. Pov said the money he received from Oum Sam An, the director of IGE and a fellow defendant, was for legitimate costs related to his work with IGE.

“It was money for legal services,” said Mr. Pov, who is currently free on bail, adding that apart from his $3,500 monthly salary, the money was spent on staff, office space, utilities and travel.

Mr. Pov said that despite his position as the head of the Cambodia office of U.K.-based legal services firm Citadel Trustees, he received payment for his work with IGE—whose plans to produce jatropha oil came under investigation by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office—directly from Mr. Sam An.

Asked about the relationship between his work for Citadel Trustees and IGE, Mr. Pov said: “This point is difficult to answer; I will not answer.”

Deputy prosecutor Ly Sophana pressed Mr. Pov on whether he endorsed a letter, which apparently bears his stamp and signature, approving the legality of IGE’s land concession. “I did not issue that letter,” Mr. Pov said.

The trial continues on October 7.

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