About 60 investors protested in Phnom Penh on Monday over money they allegedly lost to an embattled investment firm that once advertised links to business and ruling-party elites.
It has been two months since the company, GoldFX, announced it was suspending operations and suing three ex-board members, claiming they had cheated it out of $20 million.
Last week, the company posted to its Facebook page that the lawsuit was at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, and a company representative had appeared for a hearing on May 19.
“Currently those who created the trouble have fled to protect themselves from the law. They continue to do activities on social media and create fake accounts,” including posting Photoshopped images, the company statement said.
“In this context, the company would like to ask all clients to use legal mechanisms to clarify their demands legally through complaints, and absolutely avoid participating in any activity that is an ill-intentioned trick of those who caused the problems, turning the victims into perpetrators.”
The company had already reached a resolution with 700 investors, it added.
On Monday, Ny Ven, 41, was among about 60 protesters outside the company offices in Toul Kork district.
She said she had invested $30,000 with the company since 2019.
“We invested in it because we perceived the company as reliable and responsible and lawfully certified and registered, and had powerful people behind it — we do not know how the company became like this,” Ven said.
“We worked so hard to save up $1,000 at a time, from our energy, sweat and blood. … We invested in it hoping we could earn a little, but now we’ve completely lost it.”
Ven said she did not accept the company’s explanation that ex-board members had stolen the money.
“We do not know who these third persons are. … It has not been clear so we cannot accept this, and we demand to have a clear system, and we want our principle. Even if it is 80 or 70 percent, we would accept it,” she said.
Another protester, Ouk Sokheng, said the company once had at least two other offices around the city, but they had closed.
“We do not want to protest, but we have no option since they have been very silent — they said that they would find a solution but we have not heard anything from them,” Sokheng said.
Sim Sopheap said she had invested $15,000 — 10 years of savings.
“I sold necklaces and bracelets … and other things to make money to raise my kids,” Sopheap said.
For a time she made $200 to $300 a month from the investment, she said.
Another man, who would not give his name, said he had lost $50,000. “We invested in this company because the person who runs it is a powerful figure,” he said.
The company formerly advertised its chairwoman and managing director’s connections to business and ruling party elites on the front-page of its now-defunct goldfx.co website.
Chairwoman Ke Suonsophy “is the spouse of His Excellency Sar Sokha, A Member of Parliament,” the website said. Managing director Sar Channet is the “wife of very successful businessman Mr. Ly Sopheark (Vice President of LY Hour Group),” it said.
The website was no longer available on Monday.
But in a Facebook post on April 14, the company called reports of its links to government leaders “fake news.”
“[A] few local and foreign news agencies articles link this private business firm to the politic especially link to senior leaders and the Royal Government of Cambodia,” the post said. “Those fake news are creating misunderstanding of public opinions. … The company would like to deny to all misleading information and fake news.”
Suonsophy and Channet are still listed as directors of the company with the Commerce Ministry.
Suonsophy is also the daughter of Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan, a military general, while her husband Sokha is the son of Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, the interior minister. Channet is a niece of Interior Minister Kheng.
Sokha works as secretary of state at the Education Ministry as of 2018.
GoldFX and a company representative, Bun Kiririth, could not be reached on Monday. Sokha also could not be reached.
A financial expert previously questioned the company’s viability, saying consistent returns from foreign exchange trading was implausible. “It had the hallmarks of a ponzi scheme,” the expert, Mekong Strategic Partners founder Stephen Higgins, said at the time.