IN a stunning reversal, convicted Russian paedophile Alexander Trofimov yesterday admitted to a raft of child sex charges and offered apologies to his victims and their families in a bid to secure a reduced sentence.
At a hearing of the Appeal Court yesterday, presiding Judge Seng Sivutha read out a letter in which the 42-year-old Russian man confessed to charges in two of the three cases against him.
“I acknowledge and confess my guilt on two of the three counts, and for the third count I would like the charges lifted against me,” Seng Sivutha read to the court.
“With my confessions of guilt, I would like to make my apology to all Cambodian people and families of the victims who have been sexually abused by me, and I would like to request that the court cut my sentence down to the minimum.”
Trofimov, who was not present for yesterday’s proceedings, was once director of the US$300 million Koh Puos development in Preah Sihanouk province. In October 2007, he was arrested in Sihanoukville on suspicion that he had sexually abused up to 19 Cambodian girls since 2005.
In March 2008, Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Trofimov under Cambodia’s old debauchery law and sentenced him to 13 years in prison – a term reduced to six years on appeal.
In November 2008, Preah Sihanouk court sentenced him to eight more years for purchasing child prostitution, and added a further three years in January 2009 for a separate case involving 17 underage girls. All three cases were heard yesterday at the Appeal Court, and a verdict in all three cases is expected on August 26.
After the letter was read out to the court, Trofimov’s defence lawyer, Saing Vannak, requested that the court merge all three charges into a single charge, meaning that his client could face a maximum total of eight years prison – nine less than the sum of his current sentences.
“I would like to request the court to cut the sentence down against my client and absorb the convictions into the maximum sentence,” he said.
Peng Maneth, a lawyer provided to the victims by child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, opposed the request.
“I request that the court not absorb the convictions, which is impossible because the three cases were separate,” she said.
She also requested that the court deport Trofimov to Russia following the completion of his sentence.
After the hearing, APLE lawyer Nuon Panith described Trofimov’s confessions as “very surprising and interesting”.
“We applaud Sasha’s courage and bravery in confessing his guilt,” he said.
Trofimov’s in-court confession caps a colourful trial history in Cambodia’s largest-profile paedophile case.
In June last year, Prum Piseth, a Justice Ministry official, was arrested for allegedly forging documents, including one that approved the extradition of Trofimov to his native Russia, where he is also wanted for child sex crimes. The official was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined 10 million riels ($2,380).
A concurrent civil case was held against the official, in which Trofimov’s assistant Keo Valy demanded that Prum Piseth return $253,500 Trofimov allegedly paid to have the documents forged.
In the same month the official was arrested, Trofimov was reportedly allowed to leave prison to visit his investment project in Preah Sihanouk province. The prison director was later demoted over the scandal.