Eight years ago, the Cambodian government issued a license to the Industrial Plant Development Company for a $4 million plantation in Kompong Speu province.
Today in the Court of Appeals, judges will be asked to determine whether a Cambodian shareholder illegally stole the company from foreign investors by falsifying documents.
At issue is a 12,506-hectare site in Phnom Sruoch district. When the license was issued in 1993, the biggest shareholder was Chan Yean Fock of Singapore, who held 34 shares.
The other partners include three Chinese investors, three Singaporeans and three Cambodians. One of those Cambodians was Uk Khun, who held five shares in the corporation, the smallest amount of any investor.
Chan Yean Fock, through his Cambodian representative Huy Kimna, alleges that Uk Khun took advantage of the chaos following the 1997 factional fighting to alter crucial paperwork and seize control of the company.
Uk Khun denies any wrongdoing and says that the company is rightfully his because he originally obtained the land from the government and created the company. The other investors joined later, he says.
“I am not stealing the company. I have been running the company because the Singaporean investor gave up,” he said in a telephone interview.
Huy Kimna contends that Uk Khun never put any money into the project, while Chan Yean Fock spent up to $1 million since 1993 clearing land for the plantation and paying salaries.
The project became inactive after the 1997 fighting, when many foreign investors left Cambodia. According to Huy Kimna, Uk Khun took advantage of the circumstances to manipulate crucial documents.
The first was a letter from the Council of Ministers, dated June 26, 1998, granting permission to change the plantation crops from oil palms to cashews. The letter identified Uk Khun as a person entitled to act for the company.
The second was a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture, signed July 13, 1999, telling the Industrial Plant Development Company it had two weeks to meet with ministry officials to talk about plans for the property or risk losing it.
Huy Kimna contends Uk Kuhn delayed telling the management about that letter until after the two weeks had passed.
Chan Yean Fock filed suit in Kompong Speu provincial court, which ruled in favor of Uk Khun. Huy Kimna has appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals, which is expected to rule today.