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Businessman sentenced over decades-old land deal dispute

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea / Khmer Times Share:
Officers escort the accused away from court. Supplied

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced a real estate businessman, who had ties to senior politicians, to two years and six months in prison for cheating a foreign investor in a $2 million land deal dating back to 1992.

Judge Kor Vandy said 70-year-old Hen Uyhok was charged with breach of trust following his arrest last year on March 3. He was found guilty on Friday and sentenced to 30 months in prison.

“The court ordered him to pay 800 million riels [about $200,000] in compensation to the plaintiff and pay another 4 million riels [about $1,000] to the government,” Judge Vandy said.

Judge Vandy said that Mr Uyhok was sued by Hong Francis, a 63-year-old Chinese garment investor and president of the Royal Garment Factory.

Mr Francis told the court during the trial on May 6 that he met Mr Uyhok, a Chinese-speaking land broker, during a visit to Cambodia in 1992. Mr Francis, who was on a tourist visit at the time, said he met Mr Uyhok in Phnom Penh and began to forge a friendship.

Mr Francis stated that Mr Uyhok later introduced him to Chea Sim, former president of the Senate and former president of the CPP. Mr Uyhok is a former advisor to Chea Sim.

Mr Uyhok invited Mr Francis to meet Mr Chea Sim at the senior politician’s home in Chamkar Mon district.

Mr Francis said that after the meeting with Mr Chea Sim, Mr Uyhok later persuaded him to invest in lands and open a garment factory in Cambodia.

“I trusted him. I then sent him my money in instalments [four instalments to be exact] a total of $2.1 million to him to purchase a plot of land in Chamkar Mon district and two other plots of lands in Tuol Kork district to build garment factories, as well as buying another 100 hectares of land in Por Senchey district,” Mr Francis told the court. “But until now, he still has not given me any land as promised.”

Mr Uyhok could not be contacted for comments. During the trial, he denied the allegations.

Mr Uyhok explained that he met Mr Francis in 1992. He told the court that he used to bring Mr Francis to meet with Mr Chea Sim and Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2014. Mr Uyhok added that he helped Mr Francis to become a Cambodian citizen in 2014.

Mr Uyhok said he never received any money from Mr Francis.

“I deny the plaintiff’s accusation because I did not do what I’ve been accused of,” Mr Uyhok told the court.

Puth Theavy, Mr Uyhok’s defense lawyer, said yesterday that the court’s verdict was unjust for his client, noting that Mr Uyhok did not commit the crime the court has charged and convicted him of.

Mr Theavy added that the case, according to Cambodian criminal codes, is no longer valid since it happened nearly 30 years ago.

“My client does not accept his sentence because it is unjust. He did not commit any of the things he was accused of,” Mr Theavy said. “My client has already appealed the municipal court’s verdict to a higher court.”

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