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Moldovan denies trafficking compatriot into sex slavery

Liudmila Bejenari, 28, (left) is escorted out of the Phnom Penh court yesterday, where she was tried for human trafficking.
Liudmila Bejenari, 28, (left) is escorted out of the Phnom Penh court yesterday, where she was tried for human trafficking. Photo supplied

Moldovan denies trafficking compatriot into sex slavery

A moldovan woman accused of keeping an employee in debt bondage and forcing her to have sex with customers yesterday maintained her innocence, claiming the alleged victim had “begged” to come to Cambodia.

Liudmila Bejenari, 28, known as “Linda”, was arrested in June 2015 after anti-trafficking police raided the Ga-Do Italian Pizza and Wine Shop in Phnom Penh. She now faces up to 20 years in prison.

The victim – who is known only by her first name, Christina, and is also from Moldova – was 19 at the time of the raid.

According to the complaint, filed by Christina and read in court, Linda met Christina in Moldova and “lured” her to Cambodia with the promise of work. Linda then allegedly confiscated Christina’s passport, did not pay her a salary and forced her to have sex with customers for money.

Linda, who stands charged of “unlawful removal” under Article 10 of the Anti-Trafficking Law, yesterday denied that account.

“I did not invite her to work in Cambodia, she asked me to come and work here,” she said. “Because she did not have money, we made an agreement and I loaned money to her to get a passport, visa and flight ticket. She signed the contract willingly.”

The agreement stipulated that Christina must repay the money within one year.

“But she hasn’t done so and she filed a complaint against me,” Linda said.

Phnom Penh police made the arrest after a request from Moldovan police, who were alerted to the situation by Christina’s parents. Christina is now seeking $20,000 in compensation.

However, four witnesses – two staff members and two owners of the restaurant building – appeared to corroborate Linda’s account, according to written statements read before the Phnom Penh court.

They said Christina was very close to Linda and that Christina was able to “walk freely” to deliver pizza and wine to customers. Their statements made no mention of forced sex.

The trial faced repeated delays over the last two years, due to lack or absence of lawyers and translators.

After two hours of questioning at her long-awaited trial yesterday, Linda’s two defence lawyers requested the court drop the charges.

Judge Svay Tonh said a verdict will be handed down on August 2.

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