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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Orphanage founder faces child-sex charges

Orphanage founder faces child-sex charges

The British founder of the Siem Reap NGO Cambodia Orphan Fund has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing underage children and illegally removing children from their homes.

Nicholas Patrick Griffin, 53, was arrested following a raid Wednesday by British investigators and Siem Reap police at the NGO, where about 70 children were being housed, a source familiar with the investigation told the Post.

The source said orphanage manager Chan Rasmey was also questioned on Wednesday concerning the transfer of one child to the orphanage.

Sun Bunthorng, chief of the provincial Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau, said the court on Friday charged Griffin with committing an indecent act against a minor under the age of 15.

He was also charged – along with Chan Rasmey – with unlawful removal of a minor.

The source said the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Unit, a division of the British police, had been working on the Griffin case for almost two years, and that the investigation was aided by child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants.

An APLE spokesman, who wished not to be named, declined to say when the investigation with the CEOP began.

Officials from the CEOP could not be reached for comment.

The source said additional charges may yet be filed against Griffin.

APLE director Samleang Seila did not confirm whether British police were involved in the investigation.

He said accusations of child molestation were levelled at Griffin in November 2008.

“It was in relation to molesting a minor under the age of 15,” he said. “He was not charged by the [Siem Reap] court, but they did not take into consideration the victim’s statements, and another witness.”

He added that the Appeal Court last week rejected to bring charges in the earlier case.

Meanwhile, Cambodian police said yesterday that they had arrested a Frenchman who fled his home country six years ago before he was convicted of raping a minor.

Francis Leroun, 54, was detained in custody after his arrest on Saturday in a rented house in southern Cambodia at the request of a French court, Preah Sihanouk province prosecutor Bou Bun Hang said.

Leroun escaped in 2004 but was tried in absentia and sentenced to 12 years in jail, a French Embassy official said on condition of anonymity.

He said the embassy would ask the Cambodian court to send Leroun to France within two months.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RANN REUY, CAMERON WELLS AND AFP.

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