The British former chairman of a troubled biofuel firm, who is in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison on forgery charges, has claimed he is the victim in the case for which he is awaiting trial.
Gregg Fryett was arrested in Phnom Penh on March 23 and charged by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court after an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).
Mr. Fryett’s London-based company, Sustainable Agro Energy (SAE), had its assets frozen by a court order in February 2012 as the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched an investigation into an alleged Ponzi scheme being run by Mr. Fryett and other directors.
Mr. Fryett and employees of his local firm, International Green Energy (IGE)—director Samnang Ourm and heavy machinery foreman Soeun Denny—are charged with forging a public document and using a forged document. The charges relate to a stalled multimillion-dollar deal to purchase two economic land concessions in Banteay Meanchey.
In a statement Friday—which was made from Prey Sar prison through London-based law firm Bark & Co.—Mr. Fryett said that before arriving in Cambodia last month he “was given explicit assurances by the Cambodian Anti-Corruption Unit and the presiding judge that I was being treated as a victim and would be granted safe passage.”
“I believe that, together with Mr. Ourm and Mr. Soeun, we are being detained further to an investigation to which it is quite clear we are a victim and the damaged party.”
“While I understand that it is personally unfortunate that we have been detained, there is a justice and administrative system in Cambodia which I respect.”
The charges relate to a land deal in Svay Chek district to develop a jatropha plantation. Mr. Fryett claims millions of dollars were paid to Royal Cambodian Armed Forces General Hanh Chamrong, an agent, to buy the land from companies belonging to Mao Malay, the wife of former RCAF Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan. But the land was never transferred to Mr. Fryett’s companies.
“I would reiterate that IGE and SAE entered into what we understood at the time to be clear contracts for the purchase of land use rights over 6,079 hectares of land in [Svay] Chek,” Mr. Fryett wrote.
It is unclear how the charges against Mr. Fryett relate to the still-open U.K. investigation into his company.
The SFO has alleged that Mr. Fryett’s company continued to seek new investors after it became clear it was unlikely to be able to pay back more than $54 million that was invested in Sustainable Agro Energy by savers in the U.K.
Mr. Fryett said in the statement Friday that he was “convinced that the allegations made buy the SFO are unfounded.”