A former deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey province was arrested yesterday following a guilty verdict by the provincial court in a 12-year-old fraud case, police said yesterday.
According to provincial police official Mann Soeung, ex-deputy governor Tour Theantoeu was picked up in a restaurant on the basis of an arrest warrant issued on April 20 – itself based on a verdict from February 24 that sentenced Theantoeu to a year in jail for an unspecified fraud case dating back to 2004.
“We arrested him because the court ordered us to do so. We handed him over to the judge, and any further action is the decision of the judge,” he said.
Provincial police chief Ath Khem yesterday said he could not explain the delay in the verdict, or the arrest, nor could he explain the nature of the case against Theantoeu, saying that authorities had simply arrested him based on the court’s order.
According to the National Police, Theantoeu was an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly.
Sum Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said Theantoeu had been widely considered a “tiger” in the province and suggested his arrest had something to do with his declining influence.
He added that the former official had held the position of deputy governor for a short time after the 1993 elections, and had been implicated in many disputes since, including “destroying villagers’ rice fields, deforestation, destroying mountains and many land conflicts”.
He also said that he suspected Theantoeu was involved in the long-running case against Briton Gregg Fryett, who is currently on trial in Phnom Penh over accusations of illegal land clearing and forgery committed in Banteay Meanchey.
“According to my interviews with people, Theantoeu demanded to be the director of the IGE Company, of which Gregg was the owner . . . but he failed to get the position. So, he got the company in trouble.”
Fryett has consistently maintained his innocence in court, although he is also wanted in Britain on allegations that he defrauded pensioners through dodgy land deals.