Former Bank Chief to Appeal

The former governor of the central bank plans to appeal a municipal court decision ordering him to return a house he allegedly received as a gift while he considered a multimillion-dollar loan, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Thor Peng Leath, former governor of the National Bank of Cambodia and current Constitu­tional Council member, was ordered last week to return a Don Penh district house to Pung Kheav Se, the director general of Canadia Bank.

Uk Pourik, Thor Peng Leath’s lawyer, said “the court was not fair to Thor Peng Leath.”

“And I believe that Thor Peng Leath did pay $130,000 [for the house] already,” he added. He said an appeal would be filed.

Pung Kheav Se maintained he gave the house while Thor Peng Leath considered a $3 million loan to Canadia Bank in 1997, but that the agreement was broken when only $500,000 was loaned.

National Bank Deputy Gover­nor Soum Nypha would only say that “everything [the National Bank] did was all right.”

But other economic experts said this week the transaction, while perhaps not technically illegal, raised questions.

Efforts to reach National Bank Governor Chea Chanto were unsuccessful.

The loan was made after the July factional fighting caused an exodus of depositors. At the time, the loan request appeared to receive the full support of then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“I appeal to the governor of National Bank [Thor Peng Leath] to help Canadia Bank in a way so it will not face bankruptcy,” Hun Sen said in a public speech after the fighting.

Thor Peng Leath said Tuesday that the court sided with Canadia Bank because it has more money and influence than he does.

The case was opened in May 1998, two months after he re­signed from the National Bank, Thor Peng Leath said.

“If he was still governor, there would be no case,” said a former National Bank employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The business people step all over [those who] lose power.”

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