A FRENCH court has sentenced Charles Fejtö, the former director of French NGO ASPECA, to six years in prison with two of those suspended over crimes committed in Cambodia in 1998.
The NGO, now known as Enfants d'Asie ASPECA, runs orphanages and schools in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines through a child sponsorship scheme that is advertised in France. More than 3,400 Cambodian children are under its care in 16 provinces.
Fejtö was convicted on July 8 by the 15th chambre correctionnelle du Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris of sexual aggression against a minor under 15. He has appealed the decision.
The court heard that one night in 1998, Fejtö had lured the orphan to his hotel and attempted to take a bath with the girl who was then 13 or 14 years old. She refused, and he pushed two single beds together and sexually molested her.
The girl, who has since married, was flown to Paris to testify against the former director. She told the court that the incident had left her "a mixed virgin" and she had been rejected by her then fiancé.
In 1999 ASPECA president Etienne Roussel told the Post that Fejtö had been fired for financial irregularities and moral misconduct.
The French newspaper Le Parisien reported the president of the court reading testimony stating that Fejtö had "favorites" among the girls at ASPECA. Another witness statement claimed Fejtö was in the habit of bringing the young girls to his bedroom for the night.
The French tribunal also ordered Fejtö to pay compensation to his victim and damages to the organization. The victim was to receive 7,000 euros compensation and a further 3,500 euros to cover her transport costs. The court also ordered Fejtö to pay 4,000 euros in damages to ASPECA.
The current ASPECA coordinator Jean-Yves Fusil said the organization had suffered, both in France and Cambodia, as a result of Fejtö's actions.
"It was a hard time with sponsors in France and here with our relationship with other NGOs," he said. "People were waiting for this decision, so now it is improving."
The NGO has now instigated policies to "clean up our house", Fusil said, and each orphanage director "knows the policies very well".
"[The job] is a problem because it's very attractive for people who like children, and maybe for people who like children too much," he said.
Of the new policies in place since the scandal, Fusil said that, "When the sponsors come to meet the children they must first be authorized by Paris. They cannot go alone with children, they must be accompanied by our staff."
Fusil said the Cambodian government had banned Fejtö from returning to the country.
* One of the few westerners to be convicted of a sex crime in Cambodia, UK national John Keeler, was released from prison and immediately deported on August 26. Keeler had served three years in prison after being convicted of making a lewd video tape of four girls aged between eight and 10 in a Takhmau park.
The former headmaster of Phnom Penh's London School of English has multiple arrests and convictions throughout the United Kingdom for child-sex related offenses.
A March 2000 article in Dublin's Evening Herald newspaper entitled 'The Evil Lure of the Puppetmaster' chronicled Keeler's activities in Ireland in 1999 and 2000.
There Keeler took a traveling one-man theater complete with 'puppet mice' to lure victims into his converted ambulance, the Herald reported. After coming under surveillance from the Irish police he apparently relocated his activities to Cambodia. Keeler has also been barred from re-entering the country.