Government Officials Deny Authorizing Land Maps

A day after disgraced former Banteay Meanchey provincial official Tou Thean Teu accused his superiors of corruption in relation to a failed biofuel firm, a commune chief pointed the finger back at him, accusing Mr. Thean Teu of making fake maps for the company.

Official maps approving plans for a vast jatropha plantation meant to produce biofuel are at the center of a case against International Green Energy, a company controlled by British businessman Gregg Fryett, who has been in prison along with four codefendants for more than three years.

Prosecutors say the maps were intentionally forged so the company could press ahead with plans to clear the land, and judges have summoned witnesses in recent weeks in an attempt to discern whether government officials knew about the alleged fraud or how they were involved.

The signature of Kok Huon, who has held the position of Slakram commune chief since 2008, is among those that appear on a map of a 5,079 hectare economic land concession, which the company claims to have purchased, but he denied the document’s authenticity under questioning on Wednesday.

“I conclude that Tou Thean Teu made the fake map because I never signed it or stamped it,” Mr. Huon said of the former deputy Banteay Meanchey governor, who has since been convicted in a separate fraud case.

Questioned about what proof he had to back up his claim, Mr. Huon said it was merely his belief after visiting the land with Mr. Thean Teu.

Also appearing as a witness on Wednesday, Meas Satravuth, head of the Svay Chek district land management bureau, told the court that he had authorized a map of a 992 hectare plot of land that Mr. Fryett’s company planned to clear, but denied signing off on the map of the adjacent land concession, although his name also appeared on it.

“For the 1,000 hectares, it was beyond my authority,” and only a provincial hall or land management department could sign it, he said.

Hearings will resume on October 18.

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