Convicted pedophile Alexander Trofimov (right), former chairman of the Koh Pous Investment Company, is escorted by a prison security official after a session at the appeal court in Phnom Penh in June 2010. Reuters
SERIAL pedophile and mega-resort investor Alexander Trofimov walked free from Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison on Tuesday after serving slightly more than half of his previously reduced sentence for sex crimes against 17 under-age girls, the prison’s director said yesterday.
Pich Veasna said that Trofimov was released on Tuesday following a Royal pardon. “We requested to King Norodom Sihamoni to pardon him because he had corrected himself during the time he served in prison,” Pich Veasna told the Post.
The former chairman of Russian-led Koh Pous (Snake Island) Investment Company was first accused in 2007 of purchasing sex from six girls between six and 16 years of age. After the first set of charges, 13 more girls – including one who was deaf – accused the now 45-year-old Russian businessman of sexually abusing them. He was convicted of sex crimes against 17 of them.
Although the youngest was six, Trofimov primarily targeted girls between 11 and 14 years of age. He is also wanted in Russia in connection with child sex allegations there.
Trofimov had been leading a US$300 million project to turn Snake Island into a luxury resort at the time of his arrest. Following his conviction, he was provided with a private cell and was allowed to leave the prison for nights on the town, according to Se Reksmey, a provincial investigator with rights group Licadho.
“He had much more freedom than other prisoners, and also a separate cell,” Se Reksmey said.
Child protection officers yesterday expressed fear and dismay at Trofimov’s release, with one saying it was “very distressing and re-traumatising for all victims and for their families”. “Victims and the people that protect them feel less safe,” the officer said on condition of anonymity, explaining that NGOs that had been monitoring the case had received “dangerous threats”.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said it was “profoundly worrisome that organisations working to protect Cambodian children feel intimidated and unable to speak about this case”.
“The Cambodian government should ensure that all those involved with bringing forth this case in 2007 are protected,” he added.
Trofimov’s next moves are unknown. Staff at Koh Pos Investment Company’s offices in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville claimed that they had never even heard of him.
“It would be surprising if the Cambodian government permits a convicted felon to remain in the country after his release,” Robertson said.
If it does, then “officials need to explain to the Cambodian people why, and more importantly, what steps they will take to protect his victims from possible retaliation or re-traumatisation from this very rich, well-connected man”, he added.
A Ministry of Interior official said Trofimov’s name was not on the list of 642 inmates that had been sent to the King for pardons and reduced sentences.
“I don’t know who asked the King to pardon Alexander Trofimov, because the list I sent to the Ministry of Justice did not have his name on it,” said Liv Mauv, deputy general of the ministry’s department of prisons. “I don’t know what special condition allowed Alexander Trofimov to be pardoned,” he said, explaining that inmates must serve two-thirds of their sentence before they are eligible for pardon.
Roberston said that “while this is only one case, it is a high profile one, and the court and authorities must clearly and publicly explain the circumstances surrounding why this man was released”.