Four former high-ranking members of Senate President Chea Sim’s inner circle claimed they were innocent of fraud charges yesterday, telling the court they were victims of a Malaysian businessman known as “Dino”.
The highly anticipated trial of the four – whose charges stem from allegations they engineered scams involving hundreds of millions of dollars – began at 8:30am and ended at 6:00pm with only a single break of one hour.
“I have not committed any fraud for people or for companies,” said Pheng Kunthea Borey, Chea Sim’s former chief of protocol. “The accusation is a great injustice against me,” she told the court.
Pheng Kunthea Borey also distanced herself from the other three accused, saying she knew nothing about their activities.
Two of Chea Sim’s former advisors, Police Lt General Chan Kosal and Lt General Ponlork Ho, 57, and one of his former Cabinet members, Lt General Khieu Bora, also told the court they were innocent.
They claimed to be double victims of arrest and fraud by Malaysian businessman “Dino”, also known as Joe Harry Mahady.
They are accused of defrauding at least 51 foreign companies in a nearly decade-long scam spree in which they allegedly charged companies to get Chea Sim’s signature for humanitarian and development projects, some of which were fake.
Pheng Kunthear Borey said that the first time she heard about the projects was when she was charged with allegedly masterminding the fraud involving them.
“I never received any money from Chea Sim’s humanitarian projects. I knew nothing about the work of Chan Kosal, Ponlork Ho and Khieu Bora,” she told the court, stressing she had been working for the country for more than 30 years.
During this period she had never once cheated anyone or broken a single law, she said.
“I am a victim. I am an innocent person,” she said, adding that she would like the court to drop the charges against her and release her because of her long service to the country.
Chan Kosal said he was a victim of the arrest and had been swindled by “Dino”.
He knew nothing about the fake documents that led to his arrest on September 23, he said.
“I know nothing about the fake documents. I am also a victim . . . I never received any money from Samdech Chea Sim’s projects, not even one cent,” he told the court.
He said he had spent more than $200,000 of his own money to construct a road in Svay Rieng province for one of Chea Sim’s humanitarian projects. He was not repaid, he said.
A few days before his arrest, he had received documents that included two Khmer-English contracts and two pages from “Dino”, who managed the Malaysian-C4C fund in Cambodia. The contracts related to Chea Sim’s humanitarian and social projects.
He said he gave them to Pheng Kunthea Borey through her personal assistant, Khiev Bora.
Ponlork Ho said that he had been aware of five of Chea Sim’s projects worth hundreds of millions, but added he had never received commissions from them.
The projects were three planned hospitals worth $70 million, $55 million and $52.6 million, and two planned road construction projects, worth $90 million and $40 million.
Only two of the projects had been completed, he said.
“The accusation is unjust because it is false and I have not broken the law. I am innocent and I knew nothing about these fake documents. I have not received any money or commissions from the projects I have done for Chea Sim,” he said.
“I would like to ask the court to drop charges against me and release,” he said.
Khieu Bora said he was innocent and a victim.
All he did was transfer documents from Chan Kosal to Pheng Kunthea Borey, he said, adding: “I was not involved with the [others] accused. I would like to ask the court to release me.”
Prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth said all four had committed serious fraud and that Ponork Ho was also charged with using a fake three-star general position.
Chan Kosal and Kheiu Bora were arrested on September 23 at the Park Café in Prampi Makara district, while Ponlork Ho was arrested on September 25 at the Le President Restaurant in Toul Kork district.
Pheng Kunthea Borey was arrested on September 28 in Koh Kong province.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Te Sam Ang will hand down his verdict on December 27.