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‘Crocodile’ gran to file $100 million lawsuit

‘Crocodile’ gran to file $100 million lawsuit

croc grandma house
Workers demolish Chhin Sokountheary’s warehouse. Photograph: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea/Phnom Penh Post

Prominent businesswoman Chhin Sokountheary yesterday announced her intention to sue Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema for falsifying documents saying she illegally occupied state land in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district in a bid to steal the land and develop a sports stadium on it.

Sokountheary, 57 – also known as Yeay Kraper, or “Crocodile Grandmother” – chairwoman of the board of directors of Layimex Holding Group, said she would be submitting her criminal lawsuit against Chuktema and some Sen Sok district officials to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today, and would be seeking the return of her 34 hectares and $100 million in damages.

In a copy of the lawsuit – dated March 18 – provided to the Post yesterday, Sokountheary maintained that Chuktema and other officials had abused their power in claiming that she was illegally occupying state land. Her rightful ownership, she said, was supported by 18 documents showing she had bought the land in 1999, the fact that she had paid taxes on it since 2011 and letters from authorities giving her permission to build on the land.

“Although they all have clearly known that I legally possessed and controlled the above lands, Kep Chuktema and his close colleagues were still defiant, and violated the laws. In addition to this, they have produced a false report to Samdech Prime Minister [Hun Sen] to occupy my lands,” the lawsuit reads.  

Sokountheary was tried in absentia in December for encroaching onto public land – a charge she denied – but a judge ordered the case be re-investigated due to a lack of evidence. She was convicted a week later and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison but had already fled the country.

Chuktema could not be reached yesterday, but Municipal Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said he was not surprised by the complaint.

“I think that via her complaint, competent authorities will find her, and she will be arrested if she is going to submit her complaint at the court,” he said.

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