Ex-Official Says Disgraced Judge Fabricated Biofuel Case

A former Banteay Meanchey pro­vincial administrator who has spent more than two years in pris­on for his alleged involvement in an illegal land deal said on Wednesday that dis­graced former Phnom Penh Mu­­­­nicipal Court director Ang Mealaktei fabricated the case against him in retaliation for a letter sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Speaking at the municipal court after hearings were again de­layed in a trial that has plodded along for months, former Ban­teay Mean­chey administration chief Ouk Keo Rattanak said Mr. Mealaktei, who is currently in prison for an unrelated conviction, invented the case while he was the top judge in the northwestern province.

“[Former provincial governor] Oung Oeun sent a letter to Sam­dech Hun Sen reporting the activities and corruption committed by Mr. Ang Mealaktei,” Mr. Keo Rat­tanak told reporters. “Starting with this letter, he got angry and created this case out of revenge.”

“Mr. Ang Mealaktei is the one who created this case, and his bad deeds have come back to get him,” he added.

Mr. Mealaktei was transferred from Banteay Meanchey to Phnom Penh in April 2014. He was fired in February 2015 after Mr. Hun Sen publicly accused the municipal court of accepting a multimillion-dollar bribe to free a weal­thy couple on bail.

The disgraced judge has since been sentenced to two years in pris­on for unlawful exploitation, after confessing to making personal use of an Audi SUV that was confiscated from a drug dealer in 2014.

Mr. Keo Rattanak is among the de­fendants in a fraud case centering on a biofuel firm headed by Brit­ish businessman Gregg Fry­ett. He is charged with forgery for al­legedly altering a document grant­ing an economic land concession to Mr. Fryett’s firm in or­der to set up a sprawling jatropha plantation in Banteay Meanchey.

Those plans fell apart shortly af­ter the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Of­fice froze the assets of Mr. Fry­ett’s company, Sustainable Agro En­ergy. Weeks later, officials in Cam­bodia confiscated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ma­chinery be­longing to Mr. Fry­ett’s company in a move that the pro­vincial governor called “illegal” in his letter to Mr. Hun Sen.

Mr. Keo Rattanak said on Wednesday that he had simply endorsed a document later signed by Mr. Oeun, then the provincial governor, and that he should have been released 18 months ago, there being no evidence to justify his continued detention.

“It was a legal administrative let­ter. The provincial governor signed it, and I just gave it a mark,” he said.

“Mr. Oung Oeun is the person who signed it and Mr. Oung Oeun should be the one to file a com­plaint against me,” he added. “So why did Mr. Ang Mealaktei file the complaint against me?”

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