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.