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Lawyers summoned over mining lawsuits

Lawers for a Taiwanese firm and a company linked to a two-star general appeared at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday for questioning in a case that has seen the general’s firm accused of seizing mining equipment and facing a US$96 million lawsuit.

Oeung Seang, a judge at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said yesterday that he had summoned lawyers for Taiwan’s Hong Tung Resource Co Ltd and Cambodia’s Nim Meng Group, after the former joint venture partners accused one another of fraud and breach of trust.

RCAF Major General Nim Meng and his wife Lay Sineang served on the board of directors for the aborted joint-venture project between the two companies. Lay Sineang is also the director of Nim Meng Group.

Hong Tung and Nim Meng Group began working together in July of last year on a copper mining project in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kraeng district, formalising their partnership in January of this year under the name Nim Meng Sinohope Group Company, according to a draft copy of the Hong Tung complaint.

The Nim Meng Group abruptly terminated this partnership in February, the complaint alleges, adding that the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy subsequently transferred the licence for the concession from Nim Meng Sinohope Company, the joint venture, to Nim Meng Group.

Hong Tung also claims that the Nim Meng Group was exporting copper illegally through the Ream military port in Preah Sihanouk province using Cambodian naval vessels.

The Nim Meng Group, meanwhile, alleges that Hong Tung planned to sell off the mining licence to another company in violation of the joint-venture agreement.

“I have just invited lawyers from the two companies in the dispute to clarify the reasons that they terminated their joint venture and loan agreements,” Oeung Seang said yesterday.

Chea Sok Chan, a lawyer for the Nim Meng Group, declined to comment. It is unclear how much Nim Meng Group is seeking in damages against Hong Tung.

Kouy Thunna, a lawyer for Hong Tung, confirmed that he had appeared at the court but declined to say any more.

“I cannot make any more comments about this now because I am afraid of a defamation lawsuit,” he said.

While yesterday’s hearing related to the civil suits,

deputy prosecutor Hing Bunchea has summoned the two sides to appear on Monday in connection with a possible criminal case.

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