Long-Running Biofuel Fraud Case to End This Year, Judge Says

The judge presiding over a long-running fraud trial centering around U.K. businessman Gregg Fryett promised on Tuesday to bring the case to a close by the end of next month, while also rejecting a request to call a number of high-profile witnesses.

Mr. Fryett and his Cambodian-American associates Um Sam Ang and Soeun Denny, and Cambodian Ouk Keo Ratanak, were jailed in 2013 over a litany of charges related to their efforts to start a jatropha plantation in Banteay Meanchey province that would yield biofuel.

The trial has been meandering and often heated, as Mr. Fryett has repeatedly railed against the judges and prosecutors handling the case, as well as the officials—two since jailed in unrelated cases—who seized his company’s equipment and ordered the arrests.

After rejecting a request from defense lawyers to call more witnesses, including the jailed officials, Presiding Judge Chhuon Sokreasey said he was determined to hand down a verdict within the next two months.

“I will finish by December,” he said. “I hope to have cooperation from everyone in order to avoid any more interruptions.”

Judge Sokreasey claimed that the court was unable to summon judicial officials who oversaw the case before it was transferred to Phnom Penh, and that other witnesses had submitted satisfactory statements regarding the allegedly fraudulent land transfers.

The case has drawn the concern of the U.K. government, which was also investigating Mr. Fryett’s U.K.-based Sustainable Growth Group over suspicions that it was a Ponzi scheme before he was arrested in Cambodia.

“We have raised our concerns over delays in the legal process with the Cambodian authorities and will continue to do so,” the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in June.

Following the morning hearing, Mr. Fryett said Tuesday marked the 100th time he has appeared in court since the trial began in July 2014. He said it was particularly important for lawyers to be able to question Mao Malay, the wife of former military commander Ke Kim Yan because she owned the land that was allegedly illegally leased and cleared.

“It’s her land. She [did] not transfer it to us,” he said. “So if there is clearing of the land or documents that are wrong, because she is the documented owner of the land, this is the problem for her, not for us.”

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