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Friday, November 16, 2007

Girls name Russian in Cambodia sex case

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Nineteen girls have claimed they were sexually abused by a Russian businessman arrested in Cambodia last month — the largest number of children to allege abuse by one person, police said.

Alexander Trofimov, 41, the chairman of Koh Puos Investment Group Ltd., was detained in the southern resort town of Sihanoukville and accused of raping at least six girls. He was charged Oct. 17 with debauchery — a Cambodian legal offense covering sexual abuse of children.

Investigations since his arrest indicate he may have abused as many as 19 girls, said police Maj. Gen. Bit Kimhong.

"Never has there been anything like this," Bit Kimhong said.

The victims are now between the ages of 11 and 18 but were younger at the time of the alleged abuse, said Samleang Seila, director of a Cambodian child advocacy group, Action Pour Les Enfants. At least two of the alleged victims were sold to the Russian by their parents, he said.

If convicted, Trofimov could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for each offense, though the total number of victims he will be charged with abusing will be known only when his case comes to trial.

Three Cambodians were also arrested and charged in the case, said Bit Khimong.

Poverty and weak law enforcement make Cambodia a preferred destination for foreigners seeking to prey on children.

In September last year, the Cambodian government gave Trofimov's company permission to develop an island near Sihanoukville into a tourist resort. Koh Puos, or Snake Island, is located just off Sihanoukville, about 115 miles southwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.

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