A disgraced former official in Banteay Meanchey province has accused the former provincial governor and ex-agriculture minister of taking a $350,000 bribe to turn a blind eye to a fraudulent land deal now at the center of a case before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
In a statement read out by a court clerk, Tou Thean Teu, who was deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey until 2007, accused former governor Oung Oeun of taking the bribe from representatives of an agricultural firm owned by British businessman Gregg Fryett and passing it on to then-Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun.
A police officer escorts British businessman Gregg Fryett to a prison vehicle after his fraud case was heard at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in March. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily) Mr. Thean Teu was arrested in May over a February fraud conviction, but was released to attend his daughter’s wedding and has since been under judicial supervision. Mr. Fryett and four fellow defendants have been in prison since they were arrested in 2013 on suspicion of fraud for allegedly creating fake documents and paying officials to endorse them.
In his statement to the investigating judge, Mr. Thean Teu said that military general Hanh Chamrong, who acted as an intermediary in Mr. Fryett’s attempts to purchase land and start a biofuel plantation, bribed officials.
“I heard that Mr. Hanh Chomrong,” together with other investors in the venture, “gave $350,000 to provincial governor Oung Oeun and then Mr. Om Virak provided it to minister Chan Sarun to ignore the fake documents,” the statement said.
Mr. Chamrong then told provincial officials to let the company push ahead, according to Mr. Thean Teu.
“It’s important we get money from the British man,” Mr. Chamrong said, according to the statement.
Contacted after the hearing, Mr. Sarun denied taking a bribe.
“I never knew those people and I was involved in visiting the farm only to inform the company about following procedure,” Mr. Sarun said.
Mr. Oeun also vehemently denied the claims.
Mr. Chamrong has not been called to testify at the trial and has been unreachable for comment over the past three years.
odom@cambodiadaily.com
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