The Phnom Penh Municipal Court opened trial proceedings against business tycoon Bun Sitha for attempting to sell a plot of land in the capital to a buyer for $4 million after having pawned the land earlier for $300,000.
Sitha is being sued by Lim Chheang Huor, who claims the former accepted $900,000 as a deposit but never handed over the land title and other documents to finalise the sale.
Prosecutor Hor Lina said in his opening statement that Sitha had actually pawned the land for $300,000, but at the same time was trying to sell the plot. The documents were with the unnamed person who made the loan against the land’s value, which is why Sitha was unable to furnish them.
“They accused you for fraud because you did not tell them honestly in advance that the land title has been put up for pawn,” Lina said.
The trial made no mention of the location or size of the land in question, but local media reports said three different police stations were on the land, and that it had been part of a government land swap.
During questioning, Sitha attempted to explain why he took the $900,000 despite not having the title, referring to a government notice for a land swap, only to be cut off by Lina.
Sitha rejected the fraud claim, saying it was just his “business methods”, with his lawyer, Sao Neoun, saying the case should be a civil trial and not criminal.
Chheang Huor is seeking $2.3 million in damages, with a verdict due on December 12.