Indochine Insurance Owner Seeks Compensation

Philippe Lenain, the French own­er of the shuttered Indochine In­sur­ance company, which until Oc­to­ber 2004 was the largest in Cam­bo­dia, has stepped up his ef­forts to receive compensation for what he claims was the Cambo­dian government’s clo­sure of his company.

On Wednesday, Lenain’s lawyer Eti­­enne Rocher wrote to Prime Min­­ister Hun Sen accusing him of failing to stand by commitments entered into in a September meeting with French President Jacques Chi­rac. The Cambodian government “has decided to continue ig­nor­ing” the 2002 Investment Pro­tection Treaty between France and Cam­­bodia, Rocher wrote, according to an e-mailed copy of his letter.

“Mr Philippe Lenain has no other choice than spreading the mat­ter in front of the political, economic and financial community, in France. But al­so in Cambodia and to the international community at large, so that it be clearly established that your Gove­rnment has no intention whatsoever of respecting its international signature as far as foreign investors are concerned,” Rocher wrote.

Lenain is seeking $4 million in compensation for the closure of In­do­­chine, which he claims was shut down despite commitments of $6 mil­­lion in backing from the French in­­­surance giant Macif, which he claims was willing to shore up In­do­chine’s capitalization requirement as demanded by the Cam­bo­di­an gov­ernment.

Lenain has also set up a Web site at www.indochinegate.com that de­tails his version of the events that led to In­dochine’s closure.

On the Web site, Lenain claims that after Hun Sen promised French business leaders that Indo­chine lawyers could resolve outstanding is­sues by negotiating in Phnom Penh, his lawyers were met with a “scam” once they ar­riv­ed in Phnom Penh in November.

“The Cambodian negotiator had on­ly one goal: trying to have In­do­chine Insurance endorse a $3 million claim following a fire that de­stroyed a garment factory insured by…the Cambodian National In­sur­ance Company, Caminco!”

The Web site also claims that French diplomats are “keen at ex­plaining and excusing Cambodian in­­action and bad faith, rather than try­ing to act on President Chirac’s in­­­struction or to implement bilateral treaties.”

Caminco Director Vong Sandab said Friday that the Grantex factory fire claim, which the government wants Indochine to pay but Lenain claims Caminco is responsible for paying, is still being heard in court.

“Lenain’s threat is not going to spoil Cambodians’ reputation, especially not the insurance industry in Cam­bodia,” Vong Sandab said.

“This is not the first time that Le­nain tried to spoil Cambodia’s reputation, but its reputation is still good and the insurance industry is still growing,” he added.

French Embassy spokeswoman Claude Abily could not be reached Thursday or Friday.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon was also not available, and the government’s negotiator on the Indo­chine case, Finance Ministry Sec­re­tary-General Hang Chhun Na­ron, did not answer e-mailed questions sent Thursday re­garding the latest al­legations from Lenain.

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