LOOSE police procedures are allowing Cambodian children to be smuggled into Europe,
according to a foreign police official.
Months before Cao Leng Huot was intercepted by Italian police in Nov on suspicion
of child-trafficking, "at least 60 children" were smuggled-out of Cambodia
to Europe, said an official whose agency is investigating child trading rings.
From Oct 1995 to May 1996, as many as 30 children were smuggled-out by a Cambodian
couple who made approximately ten trips to Europe, according to various sources.
The two are still at-large after slipping past police who were alerted to their arrival
on the continent in May.
Police say the man held a legitimate European passport and his Cambodian partner
a doctored Cambodian passport.
"We know that the woman has been involved as an escort smuggling humans as well
as children to Europe and America into the sex-trade," said Cambodian Interpol
police general Skadavy M Ly Roun.
According to the foreign police official, the couple regularly accompanied to Europe
at least two children aged between eight and 13 years - the prime age for children
to be sold into the paedophile industry.
"In May I was informed that the couple had already left Cambodia, and were on
their way to Europe with two children... I immediately sent a telex to headquarters
alerting them about their arrival."
"When they landed in Europe, airport police checked their passports, then waved
them on. HQ later informed me that the woman's papers were in order and that the
children were hers."
"I am still not convinced by what HQ told me and believe that the couple were
exporting children to Europe to supply paedophilia networks there," he added.
In a second case, six Cambodian couples shuttling between Europe and Cambodia from
Nov 1995 to Feb 1996 on doctored Belgian passports, smuggled an unspecified number
of children using an international airline.
At least 36 air-tickets were sold with between one and two children accompanying
their "parents" on each excursion.
According to another police source, a high number of Cambodians were booking flights
to Europe on Belgian passports at that time.
Photocopies of 12 Belgian passports were made and sent to the airline's security
services for verification, the source said .
In February, when all these passports proved to be fakes, the photocopies were passed
to foreign police for further examination.
Days later, one of the six couples booked four more seats on another intercontinental
flight for themselves and two children.
At short notice and with minimal explanation, the airline was instructed by police
to sell the tickets and allow the passengers to board the flight, the source said.
"The police explained that it was important to their investigation that these
people's patterns of travel not be broken, so that these suspects could be observed
and nabbed at the other end."
The foreign police official, however, later claimed the case was merely illegal immigration,
and that no children were involved.
Within a week of that departure from Pochentong airport, a second "couple"
booked seats on another flight to Europe, but this time the airline was instructed
by foreign police to prevent them from boarding the flight.
The pair dropped out of sight after they were told that flights on the airline were
fully booked. The other suspected child traffickers almost immediately stopped booking
seats on the airline's flights to Europe, sources confirmed.
"The second couple probably sensed that a sting was being set-up and alerted
the others," conceded the police official.
In all cases, police say the children are still unaccounted for and as far as they
know, apart from Huot in Rome, no other traffickers working out of Cambodia have
If the export of Cambodian children is to be stopped the system on the other side
has to foolproof, the foreign police official said.
"With the communications technology at our disposal, exchange of information
between police agencies should be much faster than it is," he added. "And
with the extensive resources and manpower available to us in Europe, these cases
should be treated more conscientiously.
"Given the scale and seriousness of the problem, we have to ensure that absolutely
nothing can go wrong on the European end, because if we lose sight of the suspects
and the children, we have a serious situation on our hands," he said.