A 35-year-old Cambodian woman was provisionally charged with forgery and selling stolen property on Saturday for allegedly using manipulated legal documents to sell $2 million worth of land owned by her former German boyfriend’s agriculture company, officials said.
Rainer Wollny established his company, Delta W. Trading, in 2004 and acquired land via Cambodian shareholders, the businessman said on Sunday. Foreigners are barred from owning land in Cambodia. In 2013, about a third of the company’s shares were transferred to his then-girlfriend, Nuon Chanmakara.
According to Mr. Wollny, in November 2015 Ms. Chanmakara convinced his employees to have a mechanic open a safe on a company farm in Kompong Speu province, giving her access to original land acquisition documents and shareholder thumbprints.
He said she then created a document to transfer the power of attorney for the land to her, and copied Mr. Wollny’s thumbprint below the text. In June, she began selling his land, and on Friday she was arrested, he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana said a prosecutor provisionally charged Ms. Chanmakara on Saturday before sending her to be questioned by an investigating judge.
“Having questioned her face-to-face, the investigating judge decided to provisionally detain the defendant,” he said.
On copies of the document that Mr. Wollny said his ex-girlfriend had used to sell the land are the signatures of Heng Poung, a lawyer who verified that he had witnessed the authorization of the contract, and Khiev Vanna, chief of Dambouk Roung commune, who authorized the transfer.
Ms. Chanmakara “sold the land in collusion with local authorities for over $2,000 per hectare—that’s more than $2 million that she stole from my company,” Mr. Wollny said.
However, Mr. Poung said his involvement was a matter of poor judgment.
“I signed the document because I saw that my client, Ms. Chanmakara, had a transfer letter that would let her sell the land,” he said.
Later, Mr. Poung issued a letter to retract my signature, because I thought about how Nuon Chanmakara had not signed and thumbprinted it while she was in front of me, so I couldn’t know whether it was her real thumbprint or not,” he added.
Mr. Poung said he was no longer representing the suspect and was unaware of her arrest.
Mr. Vanna, the commune chief, declined to comment on the case.
However, in a September letter to Sok Khemarin, the director of the Interior Ministry’s penal department, he wrote that “the reason I dared to sign that document was because I had reviewed it and there was a letter transferring power from the company to Nuon Chanmakara for selling.”
Mr. Khemarin said the issue was now in the hands of the court and declined to comment.
Mr. Wollny said the government should use his case as an opportunity to show foreign investors that their assets were safe. “Otherwise investors would say, ‘Why should we go into the jungle? We are not protected against anything.’”