Cambodian authorities yesterday took convicted Dutch pedophile Pieter Ceulen into custody in Phnom Penh, with the fugitive businessman negotiating his surrender via lawyers.
“After intensive investigation occurred over the last week, Task Force Echo can proudly announce the arrest of the wanted fugitive Pieter Ceulen at approximately 12pm,” said James McCabe, of the Child Protection Unit, which has been assisting in the investigation.
“[The arrest] occurred in Phnom Penh as a result of negotiations with the offender, who after being the subject of intensive media and investigation believed he could not escape from Cambodia and, on that basis, decided to hand himself in to members of CPU and the task force,” McCabe said, noting the hard work of those involved.
“The suspect will be processed to be formally handed over to the Belgian and Dutch police.”
Quoted by Belgian news outlet VRT News, Luc De Mot, of the Antwerp Judicial Authorities, said Ceulen would be sent to Belgium and taken into custody.
The 60-year-old had fled to Cambodia to avoid a 19-year prison sentence delivered by a Belgian court on January 21.
Tried in absentia, the wealthy businessman was convicted for distributing child pornography and sex offences against children in the Kingdom, where he owns business and property, and the Philippines.
On the day of the sentence, Ceulen was spotted by Siem Reap residents at his villa.
The sightings, which continued through late January, generated complaints on discussion forums that Cambodian authorities were ignoring the case.
McCabe said that after receiving the necessary paperwork from Europe in late February, authorities moved quickly, establishing the task force on March 2, which included the Ministry of Interior’s judicial police, anti-human trafficking police, Siem Reap anti-human trafficking police and CPU investigators.
The noose tightening, Ceulen reached out to authorities on Thursday, following raids on several of his properties.
“All involved partners have worked hard to get him,” Pol Pithey, director of the anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department at Ministry of Interior, said yesterday.
Ceulen’s lawyer, Dirk Grootjans, also quoted by VRT News, said his client had fled because he needed some time to let the “stiff sentence … sink in”.
McCabe said pedophiles should take note. “This should be a warning to all foreign pedophiles that perceive Cambodia as a safe haven: those days are well and truly gone. You will be located and will be arrested and returned.”