The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday set bail at $5 million in the case of the publisher of the popular “Who’s Who” business directory and ordered his pretrial detention on the criminal charge of breach of trust, his lawyer said.
Publisher Men Narong was arrested by police on Tuesday and held until he appeared Friday in court, where he was charged and further detained by Judge Chan Madina, said his lawyer, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case. Under current criminal procedure, suspects may not be held more than 48 hours without charge.
The case allegedly stems from a land deal in Koh Kong province in which a British plaintiff has accused Men Narong of misusing investment money, the attorney said. The attorney claimed that he was still learning details of the case and could not recall the British plaintiff’s name.
“To me this is just a contractual dispute,” the lawyer said, adding that he was surprised by the unusually high bail set for what is still a misdemeanor case. “From what [Men Narong] told me it is not criminal, it is a civil case,” he said.
“In Cambodia there are many commercial disputes that are brought as breach of trust [criminal cases] to put pressure on the other party to pay,” he said.
Phnom Penh Deputy Prosecutor Plang Sophal confirmed that Men Narong was arrested on the charge of breach of trust and referred questions in the case to Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun. Contacted by telephone, Sok Roeun said that he was not working on the case.
A man answering Chan Madina’s phone said Friday that the judge was too busy to speak to a reporter.
Men Narong, who holds both Cambodian and French citizenship, is president of the French Cambodian firm MBN International, which has published seven editions of the Who’s Who directory, according to a recent edition.
In addition to being a directory of business and government officials, Who’s Who also gives information on the business environment in Cambodia.