British businessman Gregg Fryett called for a reinvestigation of the fraud charges against him at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday, arguing that the evidence underpinning the case should be tossed out as it was collected by disgraced former court director Ang Mealaktei.
Mr. Fryett argued that Mr. Mealaktei, who was stripped of his position and charged with corruption after a very public rebuke from Prime Minister Hun Sen last year, had fallen from grace in part because of misconduct in his handling of his own case.
Mr. Mealaktei was the director of the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court when a biofuel venture led by Mr. Fryett came under assault by authorities, who seized equipment from the firm and brought charges against five individuals over claims that they fraudulently obtained a sprawling economic land concession (ELC).
“Irregularities in this case, we believe, were involved in his removal,” Mr. Fryett told the court on Wednesday. In light of Mr. Mealaktei’s criminal conviction, Mr. Fryett called on the judges to reinvestigate any evidence that had crossed his desk as the top judge in Bantey Meanchey.
“The statements Ang Mealaktei have taken [should] be rejected, and perhaps the court would like to push the whole case back to investigation,” he said, citing statements from a former provincial governor and other officials supporting the claim that Mr. Mealaktei illegally colluded with provincial officials to seize assets from the firm.
The suggestion earned him a rebuke from Judge Chuon Sokreasey, who said any consideration of reinvestigating the case would be left to the Appeal Court.
“The request for reinvestigation is impossible at this time unless the court has finished its procedures of hearing [the case],” the judge said.
Mr. Mealaktei was among 14 witnesses whom Mr. Fryett asked the court to summon in the case—a list that included Mao Malay, who owned the land that was sold to Mr. Fryett’s International Green Energy and is the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan.
Mr. Fryett also asked for original copies of the 23 documents that he and the four other accused are charged with forging. Two are maps that have recently been at the center of the trial, which has crawled along over the past two years.
Deputy prosecutor Ly Sophanna pointed out that apart from the differing hectare amounts on the top of the two maps, the actual image, stamps and signatures were identical to the original.
“So the title on the top is the forgery? Isn’t that a simple administration issue?” an incredulous Mr. Fryett asked the judges. “I suspect it fails to meet the criteria of a forged document.”