Former Gov’t Official Implicated in Fraud Case

Who is Tou Thean Teu?

According to an old business card, he is a member of the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit and an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly.

Former Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Oung Oeun has gone on the record to say that Mr. Thean Teu, a deputy provincial governor until 2007, continued to abuse his accumulated power, criminally, for years after leaving the post, and stated as much in a 2012 letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

And a recent Interior Ministry investigation found that in 2009, Mr. Thean Teu forged official documents and signatures to fraudulently sell a plot of land in Banteay Meanchey to British entrepreneur Gregg Fryett. While the businessman has been in prison for three years, however, Mr. Thean Teu, it appears, continues to evade sanction.

The case of Mr. Fryett—whose biofuel venture fell apart when he was arrested and jailed in Cambodia on the back of his assets being frozen by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office, which claimed he was running a Ponzi scheme—has been dragging through the courts since March 2013.

In a prosecution backed by the Anti-Corruption Unit, Mr. Fryett stands charged with producing fake public documents and using them to buy two plots of land in Svay Chek district from Mao Malay, the wife of former military commander Ke Kim Yan.

In his 2012 letter, Mr. Oeun writes that Mr. Thean Teu colluded with Ang Mealaktei, then the provincial court director—now in prison facing unrelated corruption charges—and Vann Sophanna, a senior Forestry Administration official, to fabricate the case against Mr. Fryett. He says the case has “no legal grounds” and asks the prime minister to have all three removed from their positions.

A dossier of evidentiary documents accrued by the Interior Ministry’s central judicial department backs up those claims, with Mr. Thean Teu, and not Mr. Fryett, alleged to have fabricated the land-sale papers.

“I conclude that the signatures and the blueprint showing the land were Photoshopped and that the document was created by Tou Thean Teu,” reads a statement from Svay Chek district governor Khou Pov, whose signature appears on the forged documents.

The signature of Kok Huon, the chief of Slakram commune, where the land is located, is also on the document, which indicates the boundaries and approves the land for sale.

“I did not sign,” Mr. Huon tells the Interior Ministry in a signed statement. “Based on my own investigation and from other sources, Tou Thean Teu is the one who forged this plan. It was not made at the Svay Chek district office. It may have been made at the provincial office.”

Suom Chankea, who has been the coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Banteay Meanchey since 2007, said on Tuesday that Mr. Thean Teu was ever present in the northwestern province, swindling people out of land at every opportunity.

He said Mr. Thean Teu was known as a bold operator with a way of talking himself out of trouble, despite having once spent six months in prison for selling land belonging to the Funcinpec political party.

“There is nothing done to serve the interests of the people,” he said. “He only serves himself.”

Mr. Thean Teu could not be reached for comment. Multiple telephone numbers once owned by him have been disconnected.

The Interior Ministry investigation, which includes statements from at least six officials whose jurisdiction covers the land in question, was handed over to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court during Mr. Fryett’s bail hearing last month.

Sok Khemrin, head of the ministry’s penal department, which carried out the investigation, said it was up to the court to act on the contents of the documents.

On Monday, Judge Chuon Sokreasey, who is handling the case, said that the court had yet to review the documents, as it is improper to introduce new evidence during a bail hearing.

The judge said the court had not issued a warrant for Mr. Thean Teu’s arrest because the investigation into the land sale was completed by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court before the case was transferred to Phnom Penh.

“The court is conducting the trial following the closing order of the investigating judge,” he said.

The investigating judge was Mr. Mealaktei.

Mr. Fryett’s trial continues today.

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