The defense lawyer for a woman charged with defrauding a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces major general of $250,000 claimed Thursday that his client had been fleeced by high-ranking officials while trying to secure a land concession.
Reach Ny, 36, was on Monday charged with embezzling $250,000 from Major General Sem Sovanny, who had solicited her to broker a deal for 3,000 hectares of land in an economic land concession in Kompong Thom province in 2012.
Ms. Ny’s lawyer, Mon Keo Sivin, Thursday claimed that his client had gone through the necessary channels to secure the land concession from the government, but Maj. Gen. Sovanny’s cash, along with $500,000 of Ms. Ny’s own money, had been paid out to government officials at all levels in the process of attempting to finalize the deal.
“The government had [previously] given [my client] 10,000 hectares of concession land,” he said. “She ran the paperwork to get the government notice [for Maj. Gen. Sovanny to own 3,000 hectares of the land] and spent $750,000 in total, including $500,000 of her own” money, he said.
“My client did not cheat [Maj. Gen. Sovanny]. She paid all the money to district, provincial and government officials and high ranking officials at the Council of Ministers,” Mr. Keo Sivin said.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, Thursday refuted Ms. Ny’s claims, saying there was a process in place for such transactions regarding government land concessions, and that Ms. Ny had not followed it.
“Normally, when a company or individual needs the concession land, they have to register with the CDC [the Council for the Development of Cambodia], the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Environment,” he said.
“After these three approve the documents, they are sent to the Council of Ministers to review and the government notice would be issued,” Mr. Siphan said, adding that there was no record of Ms. Ny undertaking the process or spending the large amounts of cash her lawyer claims she had shelled out to officials.
“This is a clear case of corruption and the government must take action,” Mr. Siphan said.