Ex-US Ambassador to UN in Fraud Case

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Four American nationals including former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Sichan Siv will be tried by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court next week on allegations of fraud.
 
The trial comes after a former partner in the Americans’ now-defunct rice export company, AKRA Agriculture Partners, sued them in 2013 for allegedly defrauding her of $1 million.
 
According to a summons signed by judge Svay Tonh, court proceedings will start somewhat ironically on the morning of July 4.
 
Mr. Tonh named the defendants in the case as Mr. Siv, 67, who served as the US Ambassador to the UN from 2000 to 2006 and also as AKRA’s chairman, the Senior Vice-President and Director of Business Development at AKRA, Cambodian-American San Richer, 52, AKRA President and CEO Thomas A. Willems and AKRA Secretary, Treasurer and Director Wimmiam R. Nojay.
 
Although Mr. Richer was arrested in September 2014, Mr. Siv, Mr. Willems and Mr. Nojay remain at large. All four were charged with fraud under article 377 and 378 of the Penal Code. Mr. Richer is now out of detention after posting $1 million for bail.
 
The plaintiff, Eng Lykuong, contends she was first introduced to Mr. Richer and Mr. Siv by a mutual Cambodian-American friend named Kaylenea Men, according to Ms. Lykuong’s official complaint, which was obtained by Khmer Times yesterday.
 
Ms. Lykuong claimed that after meeting the men during a trip to the United States, she was persuaded to invest in a venture that would become AKRA Agriculture Partners, which was established to export rice from Cambodia to the US in 2012.
 
Her complaint added that the AKRA capital was to be used to buy rice directly from farmers. In return for investing $1 million in the company, equal to a fourth of its alleged initial worth, Ms. Lykuong says she was promised assistance from the defendants in securing US citizenship for both herself and her daughter.  
 
“They told me that if I joined the business and invested with them, they will prepare green cards for me and for my daughter who was studying in the United States, and we would become American citizens,” Ms. Lykuong’s complaint read.
 
“Because I believed in them, especially Mr. Sichan Siv, who is a very famous person in the United States and is also a former American Ambassador to the United Nations, I then decided to join and invest with them, and I sent my own money, $1 million, to them via Mr. William R. Nojay’s bank account, transferring via the First Cambodia Bank in Cambodia in 2012.”
 
Ms. Lykuong contended that eight months after sending her investment, she was told via video conference by Mr. Richer and Mr. Siv that they were resigning from their positions with AKRA because the company was bankrupt.
 
She is demanding $1.2 million in compensation from the defendants.
 
Prosecuting attorney Orn Hing called AKRA a fraud. He asserts that despite claims from the defendants that they had invested $3 million in the company before his client’s $1 investment, AKRA had always been an unfunded shell.
 
Kheng Ly, the defense lawyer for Mr. Richer, denied the allegations against his client, calling them baseless and unwarranted. Mr. Ly said Mr. Richer resigned from his position as AKRA’s vice-president in November, 2013.
 
“The plaintiff’s complaint and the accusations are not true and are baseless. My client did not relate or commit such allegations,” Mr. Ly told Khmer Times.   
 
“According to the facts of the story, this case occurred in the United States and it was a case of breaching trust. It was not fraud,” he added, but would give no more details about the case.
 
Mr. Siv’s defense lawyer, Keo Savin, also claimed his client was innocent.
 
“There was no real evidence to show that my client has committed the alleged offense,” he said.

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