A $1 million lawsuit launched by the Ministry of Environment against paper plantation firm Green Rich Co Ltd will go back to the drawing board because the complaint named the wrong person, a court official said Sunday.
A lawyer for Green Rich’s chairman Paul Yu told the Koh Kong provincial court on Friday that his client was responsible for the company, not former chairman Nhean Chou who was named as the defendant, Chief Prosecutor Keo Sim said.
“Now the court will send back the complaint to me,” Keo Sim said. “Then I will send it to the Ministry of Environment so the ministry can file a new lawsuit against Paul Yu.”
Keo Sim said despite the confusion, he was confident the trial would go ahead in April.
The original complaint charged Nhean Chou with breach of trust and harming the environment in Botum Sakor National Park. The charges carry maximum five-year prison terms and up to 50 million riel (about $12,500) in fines.
It also called for $1 million in compensation from Green Rich for allegedly constructing a road without permission and cutting forest outside the company’s concession.
Koh Kong provincial Judge Cheng Bunly said Thursday that two warrants have been issued in relation to the case, one for Nhean Chou, and one for Paul Yu, which was issued two weeks ago.
Cheng Bunly could not be reached Sunday.
Lonh Heal, technical director general for the Ministry of Environment, who was responsible for compiling the case, said Sunday he was unaware of the problem.
“I will talk with my lawyer on Monday,” he said.
Last year, Green Rich Co Ltd broke ground on a controversial 18,000-hectare eucalyptus and acacia plantation in the national park that was obtained in a government land concession deal in 1998.
Operations were ordered suspended in May pending approval of an environmental impact assessment to be prepared by Green Rich. But environmentalists and Environment Minister Mok Mareth have accused Green Rich of ignoring the order. Mok Mareth did not answer his phone Sunday.