The Koh Kong Provincial Court has identified and issued arrest warrants for three people involved in the illegal sale of land plots to people in the province.
The three – Ban Panha, Phorn Tikea and Ly Bun Raththy – are allegedly involved in the sale of land plots that do not rightfully belong to them. The case involves land in Khemarak Phoumin town’s Smach Meanchey commune, whose rightful owners remained unknown, officials said.
Provincial deputy governor Sok Sothy told The Post on December 7 that the residents first sought an intervention from the provincial administration. But because the case involved a contract dispute between them and a company, it urged them to file a lawsuit instead.
Sothy said both buyers and the firm in question had something hidden. He said the firm first installed posters advertising sale of land plots. But after an inspection the authority found that there was no proper approval from the relevant authorities, prompting the provincial administration to order a halt to the land sale.
He explained that upon seeing the advertisement and hearing about the land sale, the victims approached the firm and signed land purchase contracts. The authorities were not aware of the sale as it was done without any proper documentation.
Sothey said that as of December 7, the provincial authorities were still working to identify the firm, its owner and the rightful landowners.
“We have instructed the relevant authorities to continue searching for the real landowner and find out who put up advertisements to sell the land plots.
“They are also working to determine the relationship between the company and the landowners, which can serve as a clue to help people use it as evidence to the court,” said Sothy.
Pich Bak, one of the victims, said about 30 families had thumbprinted a petition to the provincial authorities and have also filed a complaint to the provincial court.
Bak said he wanted to buy the land after seeing the advertisement which said buyers would pay a deposit of only $6,000 with a $300 monthly instalment for 20 months if they purchase two plots of land. The advertisement also claimed that the land title would be issued by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.
“I have been paying $300 a month for eight months, and have paid more than $8,000 in total, including the down payment of more than $6,000,” he said.
Bak, who identified the firm as Business Independent Distributor Co, Ltd (BID), said about 70 families bought around 200 plots of land.
“Most victims are unaware that the owner of BID had escaped. This is because some of them stay in Poi Pet town [in Banteay Meanchey province] and Preah Sihanouk province, and others are currently working in Thailand. They wanted to have land for doing business, so they pay instalment for this purpose,” he said.
Another victim, Heng Phearak, accused the BID of being a fraudster.
He said the firm claimed to have split land of nearly 50,000sqm into plots for sale in Boeung Khun Chhang village, in Khemarak Phoumin town’s Smach Meanchey district.
The BID, he said, started collecting payments in February this year, but a few months after the sale no land plot was handed over to land buyers and the company owner escaped.
“I brought my relative to buy four plots of land, two plots of which are paid for while the other two are paid with an instalment of $500 per month. I have paid for three months,” he said.
Phearak said two employees of the firm were arrested and sent to the provincial court, but were later released after being cleared of any involvement.
Provincial court deputy prosecutor Un Sovantheany said that after receiving and examining the case, as well as questioning the company employees and the plaintiff, the court determined that there was no evidence to charge the two employees for being involved in the case.
“All sales documents and letters were made between the customer [victims] and the company owner. There is no evidence that the [two] employees are involved,” he said.
He said that based on the principle of criminal liability, an individual is criminally liable only for his or her actions.
“Therefore, it does not mean that employees would be held accountable if the company owner commits a crime and escapes, even if the employees are relatives of the owner. The important thing is to check if the employee had bad intention and participated in the crime,” he said.