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Investment scam costs Cambodians $60 million

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea / Khmer Times Share:
The suspect, Teng Saroeun, arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court. KT/Siv Channa

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced a man who was the representative of Empire Big Capital Limited and Investment Consultant Association to three years in prison. He was found guilty of cheating more than $60 million from nearly 6,000 Cambodians between 2013 and 2017. He got them to invest their money in various organisations in return for a monthly 10 percent dividend.

The court also convicted and sentenced five other men in connection with this case in absentia to three years in prison each and issued warrants for their arrests.

Mr. Key Manera, the Judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, identified the six accused as Teng Saroeun, male, 42, the representative of the Empire Big Capital Limited and Investment Consultant Association; Huot Sovann, male, 31, the President of ASEAN Instrument Foundation; Chi Gosaly, male, 33, the President of the Investment Consultant Association; Tan Tze Chin, male, 33, a Malaysian national and the President of the Empire Big Capital Limited based in Malaysia; Long Sambath, male, 31, the President of the Empire Big Capital Limited based in Cambodia; Kren Sopheak, male, 32, the representative of the Investment Consultant Investment.

They were charged with “Fraud with aggravating circumstances” under Article 377 and 380 of the Criminal Code.

Judge Manera noted between 2013 and 2017, the six accused who were real estate businessmen and representatives of EBC, ICA, and AIF organized workshops at a luxury hotel in Daun Penh district for their prospective customers. They persuaded Cambodians to invest their money in their organizations with a promise of a 10% monthly return.

“With such lucrative returns, the victims were keen to invest. They used their own savings or borrowed from local banks with their land as collateral,” Jude Manera said.

“The victims invested between $2,000 to $100,000 in the various organizations,” he said.

“For the first three months, they received their 10% return on the investment,” he noted. “From the 4th month onwards, when they did not receive any monies, the victims went to the offices to demand their investment back. However the men could not be found and were believed to have already fled from the Kingdom.” he said adding

According to the police report, there were a total of 5,985 people [victims] from 20 cities and provinces who had invested more than $60,000,000 to receive a 10 % monthly payment from the organizations between 2013 and 2017.

Saroeun was arrested on June 15, 2017 by the Anti-Cyber Crimes Police Department in the Ministry of Interior. The five others are at large and a warrant of arrest has been issued for them.

“The court is sentencing the accused Teng Saroeun to three years in prison,” Judge Manera said yesterday.

“The court sentences Huot Sovann, Chi Gosaly, Tan Tze Chin, Long Sambath, and Kren Sopheak, in absentia to three years in prison each,” he said adding “The court has issued warrants for their arrest and have ordered police to find them and bring them to the Correctional Center I, Prey Sar prison, to serve the their sentences.”

Judge Manera did not give a judgment on the damages requested by the victims. He suggested they file a civil lawsuit against the accused at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Teng Saroeun denied the allegations, saying he was only a staff of EBC and ICA. He did not have any power or the right to make decisions on the investments.

He said he was an employee of EBC and ICA in 2013 with a salary his salary of $500 per month. He was not in charge of receiving any of the monies paid by the customers for their investment.

“I have not committed any of the things the police and the court are accusing me of. I should not be the one held responsible for the victims’ monies. I am innocent,” he said.

Saroeun said the persons responsible are the five accused, who were the president and representatives of the respective companies who are still at large.

He said he will file an appeal to the Appellate court.

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