The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday struck down another request from embattled British businessman Gregg Fryett to reinvestigate all evidence collected by disgraced former court director Ang Mealaktei in a fraud case that has seen Mr. Fryett jailed for more than three years.
In ongoing court proceedings, Mr. Fryett and four co-defendants stand accused of forging documents to secure land for his biofuel company, International Green Energy (IGE). Mr. Mealaktei, who led the initial investigation into IGE as the top judge in Banteay Meanchey province, later became the director of the Phnom Penh court before being stripped of his position and charged with corruption last year.
“The whole point of the application for the reinvestigation of the evidence is to allow you to review if you have a legal position,” Mr. Fryett told chief prosecutor Ly Sophanna in court on Wednesday.
Stressing that Mr. Mealaktei’s nefarious involvement in the case had been well documented by a former Banteay Meanchey provincial governor, officials and in an Interior Ministry report, he urged the prosecutor to distance himself from the evidence and start afresh.
“Do not rely on Ang Mealaktei, or you may be joining him [in jail],” he warned Mr. Sophanna.
Judge Chuon Sokreasey denied Mr. Fryett’s motion, noting that similar requests had previously been denied and stressing that such actions would merely slow proceedings.
The glacial pace of the case has already seen the defendants detained without conviction for between 38 and 40 months.
“Any objection that causes interruption to the procedures the court cannot accept,” he said. “Based on the motives and the understanding of the Criminal Code, the court has decided to deny the request of Mr. Gregg Thomas Fryett.”
In the afternoon, questioning returned to the alleged forgery of maps by IGE in relation to an economic land concession in Banteay Meanchey and a cooperative farm in Battambang, both intended to be used to produce biofuel.
Three-year-old signed statements from Mr. Fryett, IGE director Um Sam Ang and a company staffer, Pouch Kongkea, taken by Mr. Mealaktei in 2013, were read in their entirety before the court.
In his statement, Mr. Sam Ang said that he had told Ms. Kongkea to alter the map of the 5,079-hectare concession. Mr. Sam Ang stated he had acted at the request of Mr. Fryett.
Speaking outside of the court, Mr. Fryett dismissed the claims in the document as intentional “plays on words” by Mr. Mealaktei.
“There is nothing in there that is particularly scary. There is nothing that particularly concerns me,” he said. “It’s all down to interpretation.”