The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ruled that a French colonial residence on Sothearos Boulevard across from the National Museum that was given to Prince Norodom Ranariddh as a gift in 2005 must be returned to the government, upholding an earlier decision.
Deputy Prosecutor Kry Sok Y confirmed that on Friday, presiding Judge Chan Madina upheld the previous July 2007 decision, which was made while Prince Ranariddh was out of the country.
“It was decided to uphold the in absentia verdict to return it to the state,” Kry Sok Y said by telephone Monday, adding that he didn’t know from whom the government should receive the property back.
A man answering Chan Madina’s phone said that she was too busy to comment.
Government lawyer Pal Chan Dara said Monday that he didn’t know who currently owns the building. “I don’t know [who owns it now]; I have only the obligation to take it back,” Pal Chan Dara said.
In early 2008, Food and Beverage Solutions, which owns several high-profile Phnom Penh businesses, including Pacharan restaurant, the Foreign Correspondents Club and the newly opened The Quay hotel, purchased the long- vacant colonial building, planning to renovate it as a boutique hotel.
On Monday, a staffer at the FCC said that he could not comment until he sees the latest court order.
Representing Prince Ranariddh in court Friday was lawyer Liv Sovanna. He said that the prince, who is now chief adviser of King Norodom Sihamoni, should be compensated for the loss of the building, which he claims still belongs to him.
Liv Sovanna said that Prime Minister Hun Sen gave the property to Prince Ranariddh in 2005, but in 2007, after the prince was convicted of breach of trust by his own Funcinpec party and he fled the country to avoid prison, the premier filed a lawsuit to take the building back.
But before the court resolved the building’s ownership dispute, Liv Sovanna said, the Council of Ministers issued a directive in 2007 giving the building to Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay, who has since transferred ownership of the building. Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment Monday.