The Appeal Court yesterday heard the case of an NGO vice president convicted in 2016 for cheating 75 villagers through a microfinance scheme in Svay Rieng province.
Presiding Judge Pol Sam Oeun identified him as Cheth Sarin, 36, the vice president of Cambodia Villages Development from Phnom Penh’s Chak Angkre Krom commune.
He said that in 2013, Mr Sarin and his younger brother Cheth Ren, 26, the president of the NGO located in the province’s Ramduol district, persuaded the villagers to invest in the microfinance scheme promising them monthly returns of 40 percent in interest.
He said that the 75 villagers then mortgaged their land for money to invest in the scheme.
Judge Sam Oeun said that between January and February 2013 the villagers started investing between $2,000 and $4,000 each in the scheme.
“For the first five months the two brothers paid the 40 percent interest to the villagers as promised,” he noted. “However, from the sixth month onwards they did not have money to pay them.”
“When the villagers came to their office to demand their deposits back, they found that the brothers had locked it and gone missing,” Judge Sam Oeun added.
He noted that in June 2013 the villagers filed a complaint with the provincial police and Mr Sarin was finally located and arrested in Phnom Penh on June 17, 2015. However Mr Ren could not be located and is still at large.
Judge Sam Oeun said that two days later Svay Rieng Provincial Court charged Mr Sarin and in absentia Mr Ren with fraud with aggravating circumstances.
He noted that on June 15, 2016, Mr Sarin was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail while Mr Ren was convicted in absentia, also sentenced to five years and an arrest warrant was issued against him.
Both men were also ordered to jointly pay $40,000 in compensation to the villagers.
Judge Sam Oeun noted that Mr Sarin appealed against the judgement and requested for a lower sentence.
During yesterday’s trial, Mr Sarin admitted his mistake and told the court that he would repay all the villagers if and when he was freed from prison.
“So far, I have been in jail and I would like to ask the appeal court to release me from prison so that I will be able to make money to repay the victims,” he told the court.
Phen Nak, Mr Sarin’s lawyer, told the court that so far his client had repaid 60 villagers who have withdrawn their complaint against him.
He said that Mr Sarin’s family was raising money to repay the other 15 victims but did not disclose how much had been paid.
Mr Nak requested the court to release his client.
A verdict is due August 13.