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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rome case linked to Chinese syndicate

Rome case linked to Chinese syndicate

The arrest of Cao Leng Huot is part of a worldwide criminal sindicate operating from

Cambodia. Imran Vittachi investigates.

THE Cambodian arrested in Rome - on suspicion of running children into Europe

for the sex-trade - was a courier for a Sino-Khmer triad with criminal contacts and

rackets around the globe, police have confirmed.

Cao Leng Huot was on his way to meet the Rome-based kingpin of a worldwide criminal

syndicate, when he and his "package" - four Chinese children aged between

six and 12 - were picked-up at Fiumicino international airport on Nov 30, according

to Cambodian Interpol Police Gen Skadavy M Ly Roun.

Within hours of his arrest, Italian police raided the metropolitan home of Youn Kim

Tech, a Cambodian man who holds Italian citizenship.

Tech and Huot are suspected to be accomplices for a triad that allegedly is also

capitalizing on a blackmarket in children's body parts.

"We have received confirmation from European police that the four children were

being sent to Europe for paedophilia," Skadavy said.

Police believe that the ages of the children - as well as Huot's criminal record

as a convicted drug-runner - made them prime targets for paedophiles and their commercial

suppliers.

"These children were Chinese from the People's Republic or from Hong Kong,"

Skadavy added. "They were not Cambodians, but we cannot rule out the possibility

that Cao Leng Huot may have smuggled Cambodian children out of the country in the

past."

The Cambodian Interpol chief revealed, nevertheless, that on Nov 15 - only two weeks

before Huot flew to Rome - he took-off from Phnom Penh for New York, in the company

of three children whose nationality has yet to be confirmed.

Skadavy would not go into the details, except that Huot flew to the United States

via Hong Kong and Seoul. As soon as he landed in New York, according to the police

general, Huot dropped-off the children and boarded a commercial flight back to Cambodia.

According to Skadavy, on Nov 29 Huot flew from Phnom Penh to Hong Kong, where he

picked-up his "package" - two boys and two girls - in the transit lounge

at Kai Tak international airport.

The tickets on which Huot and his underage contraband traveled to Europe were bought

at a travel agency in Hong Kong.

Huot then checked-in at the China Airlines transfer desk for the connecting flight

to Taipei.

Huot, used a Cambodian passport to embark on the child-run at Pochentong airport,

Skadavy explained, then produced a falsified Belgian passport with the names of "his"

four children listed in it.

On Nov 30, the game was up for Huot as soon as the red-eye from Taipei - flight CI67

- touched-down at Fiumicino.

As the "family" of five were passing through Italian immigration on Huot's

falsified Belgian passport, he was taken into police custody when the eldest girl,

a 12-year old, was overheard saying in French: "He is not my father."

In his briefcase - the only bag toted by the five - police found a collection of

photographs of other children, an address book with worldwide listings, and an authentic

Cambodian passport that was issued to Cao Leng Huot - not an alias - as late as September,

Skadavy confirmed.

The falsified passport was stolen in September from a Belgian stock of 1,000 blank

passports, sources said.

Both Huot and Tech are now in an Italian jail, while the four children are in the

care of a legal custodian at the juvenile court in Rome.

According to Cambodian Interpol's Skadavy, Huot, a Sino-Khmer who emigrated to France

in the mid-1970s, once served a jail sentence there for trading Golden Triangle heroin

inside the republic.

"Once Huot was freed from jail, because of his criminal background, French police

were supposed to keep him under surveillance," he said. "But by obtaining

and falsifying his Belgian passport, he was able to evade French police."

A spokesman for the French Embassy, citing lack of information and the fact that

the investigation was on-going, declined to comment on the case of Huot.

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