A mining company owned by the wife of RCAF Major General Nim Meng has been ordered by the government to pay fines and unpaid taxes after the firm was found to have illegally exported minerals from Cambodia, a report released yesterday by the Cambodian Investment Board said.
According to the report, which provided data on approved investment projects here, an inter-ministerial committee convened on May 8 to investigate the activities of Nim Meng Group, which partnered with Taiwan’s Hong Tung Resource Co Ltd last year to extract copper ore in Siem Reap’s Chi Kreng district.
The Cambodian Investment Board “led an inter-ministerial committee to inspect a case of unauthorized exports of crude minerals by Nim Meng Group Co Ltd,” said the report, which was signed July 19 by Suon Sithy, secretary general of the Cambodian Investment Board. “The committee made a report to the ‘one stop service’ meeting and as a result, with the approval of Samdech Prime Minister [Hun Sen], the company was ordered to pay taxes and fines to the state.”
The report does not say how much Nim Meng Group owes the government in either fines or taxes, or how much in mineral wealth Nim Meng Group is supposed to have exported from Cambodia.
Nim Meng Group is owned by Lay Sineang, the wife of Maj Gen Meng, who is also a deputy commander in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit. Ms Sineang could not be reached yesterday.
Defense Minister Tea Banh said that he was unaware of the government’s decision to fine Maj Gen Meng and declined to comment further.
In April, Hong Tung Resource filed a lawsuit against Nim Meng Group at Phnom Penh Municipal Court accusing it of illegally exporting copper ore through a naval base in Preah Sihanouk province. Nim Meng Group has filed own countersuits alleging breach of trust and defamation. In June, the court ordered Hong Tung Resource to pay Nim Meng Group $200,000 in damages.
Maj Gen Meng has also been accused in another case involving a land dispute with a 47-year-old garment worker.
Maj Gen Meng allegedly grabbed almost ten hectares of land in Preah Sihanouk province’s Mittapheap district from Sok Neang Gech, who inherited the plot from her husband after he died of cancer in 2006.
In January 2008, Phnom Penh Municipal Court approved Ms Neang Gech’s request to inherit the 9.18 hectares of land, according to court documents obtained this week.
But in 2009, soldiers under Maj Gen Meng’s command moved onto the plot of land, preventing Ms Neang Gech from gaining any access, she said yesterday.
Later that year, Maj Gen Meng lodged a complaint with the municipal court, seeking to prosecute Ms Neang Gech for defamation and using fraudulent documents to prove ownership of the land.
“I am a lonely widow and survive by working at a garment factory,” Ms Neang Gech said yesterday. “My husband and I owned the land for a long time with recognition from the court,” she added.
In his complaint to the court in 2009 Maj Gen Meng told the prosecutor that Ms Neang Gech had tarnished his reputation by reporting his alleged land grab to Bun Rany, the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and deputy RCAF commander-in-chief Kun Kim.
“Such behavior and acts has very seriously affected my reputation and dignity. In particular it has seriously damaged my interest in the land and has prevented land management officials from producing a land title,” Maj Gen Meng said in his complaint.
Lieutenant General Hing Bun Heang, deputy RCAF commander-in-chief and commander of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, said that the land case was in the hands of the court.
“I do not protect him or anyone in this case,” said Lt Gen Bun Heang, who chaired a meeting with provincial officials last year to try and solve the dispute between the two parties.
Neang Vannak, deputy bureau chief of the provincial department of land management, said that he believed Ms Neang Gech’s claim to the land to be valid.
“From the court ruling and from the documents, she is the real owner,” Mr Vannak said. “[Ms Neang Gech] could not even visit the land, nor can I or other competent officials. Soldiers are guarding it.”
One of the men assigned to guard the land, RCAF soldier Sao Savy, said yesterday that he was just working under orders.
“Normally we always refuse a visit before any order from the boss,” Mr Savy said. “This land belongs to General Nim Meng. He has owned it for a long time.”
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren and Phorn Bopha)