Market Tycoon Sent to Prison Over $140K Toilet Tax Dispute

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court imprisoned a prominent businesswoman who has exclusive rights to collect taxes at a number of Phnom Penh markets Monday over breach of trust charges related to a subcontracting agreement, signed in 2008, to let a business partner collect fees at restrooms in the city’s iconic Central Market.

Businessman Ham Mony claims that Roth Sopheap, 52, whose Roth Sensopheap Company controls tax collection from vendors at the Central, Kandal and Prek Pnov markets in Phnom Penh, swindled him out of $140,000.

Municipal court clerk Heng Virak confirmed Ms. Sopheap’s pretrial detention in Prey Sar prison.

Mr. Mony, 70, claims he signed a 13-year sub-contract with Ms. Sopheap in 2008 to collect money from customers using toilets at Central Market, where a visit to the bathroom costs 500 riel, or about $0.12.

“She broke the contract,” Mr. Mony said Monday.

Mr. Mony claims he paid Ms. Sopheap $120,000 for the rights six years ago, but was told to cease his operations at the market last year, less than halfway through the contract.

Mr. Mony says he visited Ms. Sopheap 10 days after he was told to stop collecting taxes and was told he could continue the contract if he gave her an additional $20,000.

“I agreed and paid her, but when I came to work, she said that she had already sold the vendor taxes to another businessman,” he said.

Khieu Tola, a lawyer for Ms. Sopheap, declined to comment on the case. But Ms. Sopheap’s daughter denied the charges.

Roth Kannika, 22, said her mother was arrested on Friday and given until Monday to pay Mr. Mony the $140,000.

“My mother agreed to pay $20,000 to the plaintiff and he accepted also,” Ms. Kannika said. “I don’t understand why the court did not accept. They want my mom in jail only.”

“It is not justice for our family because my mom did not defraud a lot of money like they are accusing her,” she said.

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