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Environment official in court on fraud charges

Environment official in court on fraud charges

A senior Environment Ministry official was tried in absentia by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, over allegations that he embezzled $2.6 million from a French-Cambodian businessman.

Judge Kor Vandy said Suon Mean, 47, an official at the Ministry of Environment and chairman of the Suon Mean Sambath Company, had been charged with fraud, and could face up to five years in prison.

The plaintiff, Eab Pai, 49, told the court that he approached Mean in 2011 with the intention of securing an economic land concession in Mondulkiri province.

Pai says he secured the land after paying Mean $2.6 million and planted rubber, only to have it seized by the government as it was in a protected area.

“[Mean] knew that the [land] . . . was located in a wildlife conservation area,” he said. Pai says he is seeking $3.7 million. Mean’s lawyer, Leng Lyhour, contended no fraud occurred. A verdict is due on October 9.

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