Prime ministerial assistant Doung Dara says he is intervening after GoldFX investors staged another protest this week over financial losses — and says the company will be expected to produce financial records and take responsibility for the losses.
The financial firm, run by Ke Suonsophy and Sar Channet, the daughter and niece of two deputy prime ministers, suspended operations in April, blaming three ex-board members of cheating the company out of $20 million.
Hundreds of investors say they have lost money as a result, and 70 of them gathered outside company offices on Wednesday morning in another protest seeking recompense.
Dara, a personal assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said on Thursday that he was tasked with trying to solve various people’s issues, ranging from land disputes to financial cases like GoldFX.
It can be uncertain how long it would take or how much it would cost to go through the courts, he said.
In the GoldFX case, he had received a petition representing 653 investors, Dara said.
The investors’ losses are the responsibility of the company because the investments went through the company’s systems, which failed and led to the entirety of the money disappearing, he said.
He had spoken with company representatives both face-to-face and via video chat, and is in touch with them through messaging, he said.
The company had asked him to help convince the investors to stay calm and patient as the company tries to resolve its issues, he said.
“The system [caused] the loss of all of the people’s money, and [we] are questioning how this [happened],” Dara said.
The company should produce its records of financial transactions to explain what happened to the complainants. This would help build confidence both in this case and for Cambodia’s financial sector in the future, he said.
“So for everything we always have transaction records — what [is in] the online records? How did it go, from where to where? And how did the cash flow out of Cambodia? Is it recognized by our national bank at any level? So we must have an explanation to show all the people the responsibility of the company.”
Dara has also intervened in a land dispute in Preah Sihanouk province involving residents of a lake granted to the family of CPP senator Ly Yong Phat.
At Wednesday’s protest, investor Mom Pichpanha said the company had offered no remedy to the loss of his $8,000 investment for more than two months.
As he understood it, the initial explanation was that ex-company board members stole the money, then that the money was lost due to trading, then that the company was suing to recover the losses, and now that some had established another company using GoldFX’s address and logo.
GoldFX representative Bun Kiririth and lawyer Chea Rathsavun could not be reached for comment.
Pichpanha, an architectural draftsman, added that he hoped the Finance Ministry could help find a solution.
“We have been waiting too long, [and] there is still no good solution. During this Covid time, losing the money like this, it’s very difficult for the clients,” he said.
Yun Sophol, a grocery seller, said she invested $3,000 last March.
“The problem of how much money was cheated and collected by how many people is the company’s internal matter. All clients took money to invest with the company, [and we’ve] never known any of those individuals. So all problems are the responsibility of the company,” Sophol said.
Another investor, who gave his name only as Ming, said he had invested $10,000 collected from his family. He had confidence in GoldFX because of its links to high-ranking officials, he said.
Now a business student, Ming said he would continue to demand that his money be returned.
“Our stand is to keep coming — continue doing this on social media, still come directly to the company to protest, until [we] get a solution from the company,” he said.
An investor who said he put more than $80,000 into GoldFX doubted that it would be so easy for millions to be stolen from the company.
“During this time, if we don’t depend on Samdech Hun Sen, we don’t know who else we should depend on. Because it is only him who can help facilitate,” said the investor, who declined to be named.
On June 2, GoldFX released a statement in response to an earlier protest and asked that clients to be patient and wait for the ongoing settlement of court proceedings suing those who cheated the company. The company had filed a court complaint on April 6 about third parties starting a new company, GFX International, using GoldFX’s address and logo, it said. Company representatives had also testified at court on May 19 following delays due to Covid-19, it said.
Finance Ministry spokesperson Meas Soksensan said on Wednesday that the ministry would look into the investors’ petition. Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Blang Sophal said he had not yet reviewed GoldFX’s lawsuit.