The U.K.’s fraud office plans to request the extradition of a British national currently detained in Cambodia, after it brought charges against four people for their part in a $36 million Ponzi scheme involving a biofuel plantation.
Gregg Fryett was arrested in Phnom Penh in March and charged by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court after an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) into a deal to purchase land from the wife of former Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan.
The ACU investigation followed the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) freezing the assets of Sustainable Agro Energy (SAE), a London-based firm for which Mr. Fryett was chairman, in February 2012.
The SFO in court filings alleged that the company was running a Ponzi scheme for the benefit of its directors that involved selling people in the U.K. a stake in land in Cambodia that would be used to grow jatropha—a tree whose fruit can be used to make biodiesel.
As the company unraveled last year, it emerged that despite SAE taking millions of dollars worth of investments from people in the U.K. who were hoping to bolster their pensions, no jatropha was ever produced and two land concessions sought by the company had never been transferred.
In a statement on August 14, the SFO said it had brought charges of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to furnish false information against four British men.
The statement named the men as former SAE director Gary West, former CEO James Whale, former financial controller Fung Fong Wong and Stuart Stone, an independent financial adviser associated with the company.
“The value of alleged fraud is approximately £23m [$35.8 million] and the offenses are said to have taken place between April 2011 and February 2012,” the statement says.
It also says that Mr. West, Mr. Stone and Mr. Wong have all been charged under the U.K.’s Bribery Act 2010.
“The SFO commenced proceedings today against the four and they will appear before Westminster Magistrates Court on 23 September 2013,” it says.
Although Mr. Fryett’s name was not mentioned in the statement, SFO press officer Jina Roe said the SFO would also be pursuing him.
“I can confirm the SFO intends to seek his extradition,” Ms. Roe said in an email on Friday, declining to provide more information.
Mr. Fryett has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the fraud case in the U.K. and in April said in a statement through his lawyers in London that he was the victim rather than the perpetrator of the forgery case for which he has been charged in Cambodia.
Mr. Fryett is thought to still be in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison.
Two employees of the local arm of SAE, International Green Energy (IGE), were also arrested in January. Hin Sophal, president of the Banteay Meanchey provincial prison, confirmed that IGE director Samnang Ourm and heavy machinery foreman Soeun Denny are still in the jail.
All three are charged with forging a land document in the ultimately fruitless deal to purchase two economic land concessions totaling 6,079 hectares in Svay Chek district to develop the jatropha plantation.
Mr. Fryett has claimed millions of dollars were paid to RCAF General Hanh Chamrong, an agent, to buy the land from companies belonging to Mao Malay, the wife of Mr. Kim Yan, who is a deputy prime minister.
(Additional reporting by Chhorn Chansy)
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