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Norodom Ranariddh accused of selling party chopper

A Funcipec party official said yesterday the party intended to sue its beleaguered former president, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, over what they claim was the theft and sale of a party-owned helicopter more than three years ago.

According to Funcinpec president Nhek Bun Chhay, the helicopter was allegedly taken under the guise of being repaired, then quietly sold off.

“He always said that he had taken it to be repaired, but really he had stolen it to sell. He told a lie, he sold it,” said Bun Chhay, who believes the helicopter was sold for $1.2 million.

Bun Chhay said he and Funcincpec officials were collecting evidence and weren’t sure when they would file the complaint.

They would be willing to negotiate, said Bun Chhay, if Prince Ranariddh would split the proceeds of the sale with the party.

“He keeps telling a lie. If he tells honestly that he has sold it, we can have a compromise,” Chhay said.

However, a spokesman for Prince Ranariddh, Pen Sangha, dismissed such claims, noting they came just a day after rumours (ultimately proved false) surfaced of Prince Ranriddh’s involvement in the newly-formed CNRP.

“This is a cowardly and knavish act by the present Funcinpec leaders because Samdech Krom Preah [Norodom Ranariddh] has never sold the assets of Funcinpec,” added Sangha.

In 2006, Ranariddh was ousted from the royalist party and, less than a year later, sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison on breach of trust convictions for selling Funcinpec headquarters and using the funds to purchase property for his newly-created party – a charge he branded as political.

Ranariddh counter-sued Bun Chhay for breach of trust and forgery, but the conviction stood even upon appeal and Ranariddh returned from self-imposed exile only after a royal pardon was issued in 2008.

The 69-year-old former prime minister resigned from politics last year amid growing struggles within his eponymous party, which, shortly thereafter, merged with Funcinpec.

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