Two Senior Officials Accused of Defrauding Former Deputy Governor

2 min read
The Ministry of Justice in Phnom Penh (VOD)

A former Pailin deputy provincial governor says two under-secretaries of state at the Justice Ministry and Council of Ministers defrauded him of $100,000 over a Phnom Penh land deal as the two men were handed preliminary charges and summoned to court.

A Phnom Penh Municipal Court summons, dated January 11, said prosecutors had pressed charges over a 2016 deal for 2 hectares of land in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district. Prosecutors’ findings dated December 1 recommended pretrial detention for Justice Ministry undersecretary of state Meas Savoeun and Council of Ministers undersecretary of state Chhem Peth.

Peth, however, answered his phone on Wednesday to deny involvement in the case, and said he would attend the court according to the summons.

“I will go to clarify the situation on that day. Basically, the accusation against me is not true,” Peth said.

Kan Rithy, a former Pailin deputy governor who now works at the Interior Ministry, said that in August 2016 Peth advised him to buy a plot of land from Savoeun, a man Rithy did not previously know.

After three months of persuasion by Peth, in October of that year Rithy decided to buy 20,000 square meters of land behind Land Management Minister Chea Sophara’s property for $200 per square meter, or $4 million total, he said.

He paid $100,000 upfront, Rithy said.

“He took the $100,000 and they disappeared forever,” he said.

Peth countered that he had merely put Rithy and Savoeun in touch.

“I told him that Meas Savoeun had land for sale and he wanted to buy it, and he went to meet with Meas Savoeun and they disappeared until he filed the complaint. So I am not involved in fraud. I just brought a buyer and seller together,” Peth said.

Savoeun could not be reached for comment.

Justice Ministry spokesperson Chin Malin said his ministry officials would be treated the same as anyone else in court.

“It is a normal case for law enforcement. Whether they’re government officials or ordinary people, they have to go through the court process and defend themselves,” Malin said.

In 2019, another undersecretary of state at the ministry, Seng Sovannara, was fired over alleged encroachment of 1,000 hectares of state land in Mondulkiri province.

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