Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday found a woman and her son-in-law not guilty after they were accused of cheating nine people out of more than $20,000 in financial deals.
Judge Hong Sokunwathana identified them as Buth Son, 65, general director of Cambodia Natural Herbs Enterprise of Mangorom, and her 47-year-old son-in-law Bun Pheng, general manager at the same company.
Judge Sokunwathana said that both were charged with fraud after nine people filed a joint complaint against them on November 28 last year.
“Based on the trial, and after listening to the two accused’s answers and the plaintiff’s testimony, which were delivered during the hearing [on August 29], the court understands that the case is an argument of contract between the plaintiff and the accused, and not a fraudulent case,” Judge Sokunwathana said.
“The court finds that the two accused are not suspected of fraud as they have been previously charged by the court prosecutor,” he added.
Nath Chamroeun, the plaintiff representing a group of victims, said that he did not accept the court’s ruling, adding that he and the victims will take the case to the Appeal Court.
“It was unjust,” Mr Chamroeun said. “Ms Buth Son and her son-in-law Bun Pheng had cheated us out of more than $20,000 and have never paid us back for more than three years.”
“We did not agree with the judge’s ruling,” he added. “To claim back the money we have lost, we will appeal it to the Appeal Court and request the higher court to find the truth and justice for us.”
Mr Chamroeun explained that he and eight other people invested in Ms Son and Mr Pheng’s herbs company after attending a workshop hosted by the company at its headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district in 2015.
He noted that the company had presented their natural herb products and investment schemes at the workshop.
“After the workshop, I met and discussed about investing with them and the benefits at their office,” Mr Chamroeun said. “I trusted them and then started investing my money with them.”
“At first, on September 25, 2015, I started investing only $1,500 through buying a VIP package from their company. And in the next month, the company paid me $500 from the interests,” he added.
“After I saw that it was a good business, a month later, I increased my investment and put in $7,500 and I expected that I would receive a higher profit,” he said. “But after I paid them $7,500, they did not pay me as promised. They cheated me.”
Mr Chamroeun said that in total, Ms Son and Mr Pheng cheated nine victims out of $26,770.
“To find the truth and justice in this case, in the name of the victims, I would like to ask the judge to punish the two accused in accordance with the law,” he said. “I demand a total of $26,770 in damages and another $500 in compensation for each victim from them.”
During the accused’s hearing on August 29, deputy prosecutor Soeun Monirath said that between 2015 and 2016, Ms Son and Mr Pheng advertised a search for business partners to join their company.
In the advertisement, the two accused claimed a 50 percent monthly profit rate for investment deals starting from $200 to $7,500.
Mr Monirath said the two accused managed to find interested members, some of whom also borrowed money to invest.
“In the first two months, the accused delivered the profit rates as promised,” Mr Monirath said. “But after that, they did not pay them.”
“In this case, in the name of the court prosecutor, I say that the two accused have cheated the victims,” he added. “Therefore, I suggest that the judge punish them in accordance with the law so that they will not do it again in the future.”
Ms Son and Mr Pheng could not be reached for comment yesterday.
However, during their hearing, they denied the allegations, but admitted they received money from the victims.
The two accused told the court that the reason they did not pay the interests to the victims as promised was because the victims did not adhere to the company’s policies and guidelines.
They added that according to company policy, members must recommend the company’s products to others and find new people to buy the products.
They added that since the victims became members of the company, they became lazy and did not find new buyers.