Lawyers for 45 Japanese investors who lost thousands of dollars in fake real estate projects in Cambodia called Wednesday for more victims to come forward in an effort to pressure the Cambodian government to arrest the scheme’s ringleader, who they say still lives in the country.
Speaking at a press conference at the Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh, the lawyers—Masashi Imaizumi, Katsuta Isao, Katsuomi Abe and Egawa Go—said they represented 45 out of 99 victims in Japan who have been swindled into handing over cash in order to invest in fraudulent condominiums in Cambodia.
They said the scheme has been going on since 2012 and that Japanese police have been investigating the case since last year. They also said the scam’s ringleader, Ikuo Konno, lives in Cambodia, and called on local authorities to take action to arrest him.
“The fraud case has been happening since 2012 with the ringleader, a Japanese man Ikuo Konno,” said Mr. Isao at the press conference. “According to witnesses, people said that Mr. Ikuo Konno lives in Cambodia now, and Ikuo Konno also answered before a Japanese court that he lived in Cambodia and had accepted Cambodian citizenship in 2013.”
Mr. Konno appears to be the CEO of a local development company called AAP International (Cambodia) Co. Ltd. AAP’s website says that the company relocated its operations to Cambodia—though it is unclear when or from where—and that the country offers a prosperous business climate.
A document distributed by the lawyers Wednesday states that through fact-finding during civil proceedings in Japan, Mr. Konno was revealed as the mastermind of the scheme and that most of the money stolen from the victims has already been transferred to Cambodia.
The document also says that the scam started when the victims—mostly the elderly—received mailed pamphlets from First Fudosan Co. Ltd. or Universal Max Co. Ltd. about an investment product.
The victims then received a telephone call asking them to invest on behalf of a third party, with a promise that the third party would pay a higher price upon return. Once the investments were purchased, the victims then received more calls and were asked to buy more.
The lawyers said the total damage being claimed by the 99 victims is $20.1 million. The document says that 23 of the 99 victims are plaintiffs in civil cases in Japan and that several of the fraudsters had been arrested in 2013.
Last year, Japanese media reported a rise in mostly older people being swindled into turning over cash on the promise of a stake in development projects in Cambodia.
In one case, more than 600 people were swindled out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Neither Mr. Konno nor AAP could be reached for comment Wednesday.