Ponzi Scheme Operator Caught, Let Go in Battambang

Authorities in Battambang province arrested and then released the local manager of a now-defunct financial company after impounding his vehicle and making him promise to repay $24,000 taken from two investors.

Touch Sokey, who ran an unlicensed provincial branch of the Asean Instrument Foundation (AIF), was arrested Sunday and released the next day without charges, Heng Luy, the deputy court prosecutor handling the case, said on Tuesday.

Mr. Sokey’s two victims, who filed separate complaints earlier this year, preferred to get their money back rather than see him go to jail, he said.

“We decided to release him and let him go home because his clients asked that he not be detained because they just want their money back,” Mr. Luy said. “He promised to pay all the money back to his clients and we agreed to the idea. If we put him in pretrial detention, who will pay the clients back?”

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia issued a warning in May last year that AIF, which was promising 10 percent monthly returns for investing in the Hong Kong-based Empire Big Capital, was a Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Sokey was not given a deadline for repaying his victims but agreed to make monthly payments. “If he fails to pay, he agreed with his clients that his property will be confiscated” and sold, Mr. Luy said. Neither of the victims could be reached for comment.

Lack Vann, who heads the provincial military police force’s serious crimes bureau and led the investigation, said the court issued an arrest warrant on May 31, after Mr. Sokey had failed to appear for questioning.

He said Mr. Sokey had been operating the now-shuttered AIF branch since June 2015 without a license.

“I had heard that this company was involved in cheating people out of money, but no one came to file a complaint with us,” he said. “They went to file complaints with the prosecutor instead.”

Fourteen AIF staff were arrested in Siem Reap and Takeo provinces last year, some of whom have since been convicted of fraud and given one-year prison sentences.

An Interior Ministry official said earlier this year that AIF was closed down in December.


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