Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay has filed a lawsuit at Phnom Penh Municipal Court accusing Prince Norodom Ranariddh of selling Funcinpec’s headquarters in 2005 and pocketing the proceeds, party spokesman Nouv Sovathero said Thursday.
In his complaint lodged Wednesday, Nhiek Bun Chhay demands that Prince Ranariddh pay $4.6 million to Funcinpec for selling off the party’s headquarters near the Japanese Friendship bridge for $3.6 million and keeping the money.
Nhiek Bun Chhay also urged the court to prosecute the prince for cheating the party over the sale of its land.
“[I] request that the court prosecute Prince Norodom Ranariddh and ask the court to order Prince Norodom Ranariddh to pay $3.6 million…and $1 million for the party in compensation,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said in his complaint.
“The money [Prince Ranariddh] received from selling the party’s headquarters, the prince used for his own benefits, and he didn’t deposit it in Funcinpec’s bank account,” he adds in the complaint.
Prak Savouth, chief clerk at the municipal court, said he had not yet received the complaint on Thursday as it was a public holiday.
Prince Ranariddh’s public affairs adviser Ok Socheat dismissed Nhiek Bun Chhay’s allegations.
“[Prince Ranariddh] didn’t keep [the money] for himself. He used it for the party,” Ok Socheat said. “The prince was president at that time. He could make any decision,” Ok Socheat added.
Nhiek Bun Chhay claims that Prince Ranariddh sold the party headquarters to Ly Chhuong Construction in November 2005 for $3.6 million without consulting with Funcinpec’s board of directors or members of the party’s national council.
Nhiek Bun Chhay also claims that in March, Prince Ranariddh allowed the company to build a new $2-million headquarters in Dangkao district, without public bidding.
Ly Chhuong, a son-in-law of prominent CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, heads Ly Chhuong Construction.
Ly Chhuong said he was too busy to discuss the Nhiek Bun Chhay’s lawsuit on Thursday. Cheam Yeap referred questions back to his son-in-law.
Cheam Yeap, however, claimed on Oct 31 that Nhiek Bun Chhay had literally “begged” Ly Chhuong to buy the party headquarters.
Ly Chhuong said the same day that he was the rightful owner of the property, and would fight a legal battle to take control of it. He also said that he reached the deal on the property with Funcinpec as a party rather than Prince Ranariddh alone.
Nouv Sovathero said on Thursday that the party filed the lawsuit against the prince to defend itself from Ly Chhuong’s legal action.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, who has reportedly formed an alliance with Prince Ranariddh to compete in the 2008 national elections, said the lawsuit is political.
Nhiek Bun Chhay’s legal action is designed to prevent Prince Ranariddh’s return to politics after his ousting last month from Funcinpec’s presidency.
“It is the cheapest trick,” Prince Thomico said.
“They are afraid of Prince Norodom Ranariddh forming an alliance with me. They are afraid of royal families participating in politics because people love the royal families,” he said.
Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the CPP has no involvement in Nhiek Bun Chhay’s lawsuit, which he described as an internal matter between Funcinpec and Prince Ranariddh.
The CPP has no objection to royals participating in politics, he said. But he added that Prime Minister Hun Sen is concerned that they will tarnish the reputation of the royal family.
“Hun Sen welcomes the royal families but he is afraid the royal families will lose their trousers,” he said.