US-Cambodian Businessman Jailed in $1M Fraud Case

Prominent Cambodian-American businessman Richer San was arrested Wednesday morning in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district and sent to PJ Prison for his alleged role in defrauding dentist Eng Lykuong of $1 million, officials said.

On August 21, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued an arrest warrant for Mr. San, who was summoned for questioning a month earlier along with three other well-connected businessmen—Sichan Siv, formerly a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and author of the renowned Khmer Rouge survival memoir “Golden Bones”; New York State Assemblyman William Nojay and Thomas Willems, a former director of the NGO Cambodia International Education Support Foundation-USA.

Cambodian-American businessman Richer San leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday evening following his arrest earlier in the day over his role in allegedly defrauding Phnom Penh dentist Eng Lykuong of $1 million. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Cambodian-American businessman Richer San leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday evening following his arrest earlier in the day over his role in allegedly defrauding Phnom Penh dentist Eng Lykuong of $1 million. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The arrest of Mr. San follows a complaint filed with the court by Ms. Lykuong, who claims the men conned her into investing $1 million in their company, Akra Agricultural Partners, by peddling a number of phony business deals.

“Mr. San Richer was arrested over accusations of fraud on Wednesday morning in front of Chaktomuk police office in Daun Penh district’s Chaktomuk commune while he was driving a car accompanied by his wife,” said Sar Piseth, deputy chief of the municipal police’s warrant execution bureau, who made the arrest.

Mr. San and his wife, Sithea San—a power couple in the Cambodian-American community—founded the business hub Cambodia Town in Long Beach, California, but have lived in Phnom Penh since 2012.

Outside the courtroom Wednesday, Mr. San’s wife declined to comment on her husband’s role in the case but said he was cooperating with the court.

“We are good people and we are honest people and we will do things right,” she said.

When Mr. San emerged from the investigating judge’s office just before 6 p.m., he denied the charge against him and said he trusted the court to clear his name.

“Innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

“She [Ms. Lykuong] is the one who should be answering questions…but I still believe in the Cambodian justice system.”

Mr. San said he had had no recent contact with the co-accused.

“I am the one who is here, I don’t know about them. I am very disappointed—I have given so much to the country of my birth,” he said before being hurried into a police Land Cruiser and driven to the minimum-security PJ Prison.

Ms. Lykuong said Wednesday that Mr. San’s role in the alleged fraud was now for the court to determine.

“He can continue denying the allegation but I will leave it up to the court to decide and find me justice,” Ms. Lykuong said in an email.

She said despite Mr. San’s arrest, she remained distressed, as the other three defendants have yet to be brought to court.

“My justice has not been fully served yet. The case is very complex and painful for me,” she said.

Ms. Lykuong’s lawyer, Orn Hing, said Wednesday that of the four summoned for questioning, only Mr. San was present in Cambodia.

“Mr. Thomas Willems went to Thailand and Mr. Sichan Siv has gone to the USA,” he said.

Mr. Nojay resides in New York.

Mr. Hing said that Mr. San was arrested Wednesday after filing a complaint with the Appeal Court, following his receipt of an initial summons by the Phnom Penh court, challenging its stipulation that he must remain in Cambodia.

“The Phnom Penh Municipal court issued a summons, but Mr. San did not go to the court—that is why he was arrested by the municipal police, in case he might escape going to court,” he said.

Investigating Judge Oeung Sieng could not be reached.

Mr. Siv and Mr. Nojay have not responded to multiple requests for comment. Mr. Willems also could not be reached.

henderson@cambodiadaily.com, pisey@cambodiadaily.com

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