Kampot Provincial Police have arrested real estate tycoon Chea Saron and eight of his staff for allegedly conning nearly $40 million from 2,461 families.
Mao Thunin, Governor of Kampot Province, opened a public forum for out-of-court dispute resolution for people impacted by Saran’s real estate company in Ang Chhouk pagoda, Chhouk district, Kampot province, on April 22.
The forum, which was broadcast on the social media page of the provincial police, was about most people’s disputes over bank loans taken to invest in land with the company. Thunin said the company knew in advance that people did not have a monthly income, but continued to encourage them to take bank loans to buy company land.
“According to the victims' saying, do not hear anyone who has the idea to borrow other than the initiative of splitting the land and the loan provider,” Thunin said.
Mostly victims, the company asked them to buy land and promised to repay the loan to the buyer and give a profit. Kampot victim Tun Sun said that both bank staff and the land agency came to try to convince him to borrow money from the bank to buy land.
"Both staff and the land agency do all the fraud paperwork, I just need to give my thumbprint and when I get the money, the land agency will take it,” he said.
The Oddor Meanchey province victim broke into tears when she said the whole family is indebted with loans that must be repaid over 60 months at between $7,000 of $10,000 investment.
“For me to never borrow money from others, they persuaded me for a long time. They came many times until I took an Ioan, and they promised me this much money to repay me,” she said.
In the forum, Saron, said that his company had good operations from the start and that this was why thousands of people invested in his million-dollar project.
“I know you are angry (victims). I accept all the mistakes, all these mistakes are not the fault of my staff. Everything is the fault of the company.”
He also said that the company provided turnover on the date to ensure the truth and to try and reassure investors that the company is still operating and is able to repay its investments.
In February 2022, after the Covid-19 pandemic, Saron invested all of its capital in Phnom Penh to buy land and build a central office and condominium. The total cost of the project was $20 million. This investment depleted the company's reserve capital.
Unfortunately, the land and condo were not sold. As a result, the company was unable to pay back its investors, who had invested since July. This caused a disruption in the company's operations, he added.
As part of an out-of-court settlement, Thunin and Saron’s company have agreed that the company will accept the debts that victims borrowed from loan providers.
The company will insure the interest on behalf of the victims and trade in existing property assets to repay victims.
For those who invested with the company and did not borrow money from anyone, the company asks for one month to update research on how many people are involved so it can check the possibility of collecting real estate, property and budgets to prepare to settle for the victims.
Victims who have already paid in full for the purchase and sale of land and have not yet received the title deed, must go to the company to receive the title.