The 200 Cambodian families suing U.K. firm Tate & Lyle in London over sugar the company has bought from a pair of local plantations accused of stealing their land have switched lawyers, delaying the start of the trial, which was expected to start this month.
The families accuse the Thai-owned plantations in Koh Kong province, previously co-owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, of stealing their farmland beginning in 2006 and driving them into debt. They have called for a boycott of the “blood sugar” and sued Tate & Lyle in London in March 2013, claiming the firm owed them compensation because it profited off the sugar it bought from the plantations in 2010 and 2011.
The London office of international law firm Jones Day originally took on the case pro bono. U.K. firm Leigh Day confirmed that it has taken over and requested a delay in the trial.
“We have taken over the case from Jones Day. The delay in the trial timetable was requested to make some amendments to the way we set out our case,” Keren Adams, a consultant in the Leigh Day’s international and group claims department, said in an email last week.
“No new trial date has yet been set, as the defendants will need to first submit an amended defense,” she said. “It is likely that the trial will be listed for some time in the first half of next year.”
A source in Cambodia familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the case was passed on to Leigh Day because of its extensive experience with similar cases. The new firm needed more time to add additional causes of action against Tate & Lyle, the source added, but would not elaborate further.
An Haya, one of the defendants in the case, said he was told by the lawyers that the trial was likely to start in March, beginning with testimony from six of the 200 complainants.
Tate & Lyle denies any wrongdoing and has been trying to settle the case out of court. In June, the families said they rejected an offer of $305,000 in exchange for dropping their claims.
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)
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