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Saturday, May 22, 2010

B.C. man guilty of sex tourism


VANCOUVER - A Burnaby, B.C. man has pleaded guilty to sex tourism charges involving 14 underage girls in Cambodia and Colombia.

Kenneth Klassen appeared in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Friday and admitted to committing the crimes between December 1998 and March of 2002.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of importing child pornography and will be sentenced in July.

Klassen, a father of three, was originally facing 35 charges for the exploitation and sexual abuse of children in Cambodia, Colombia and the Philippines.

He was accused of abusing girls as young as nine and charged in 2007 after a two-and-a-half-year international investigation that netted videos showing a man having sex with young girls.

Klassen challenged Canada's child-sex tourism law in 2009, saying Canadian courts had no jurisdiction in other countries, but a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled the law is internationally valid because many countries have similar legislation.

"In the absence of extraterritorial legislation, Canada would become a safer harbour for those who engage in the economic or sexual exploitation of children," Justice Austin Cullen wrote in his decision.

Canada's child-sex tourism laws were enacted in 1997 and bolstered five years later so the consent of the foreign country where allegations of sexual abuse took place was no longer needed in order to lay charges.

Vancouver hotel employee Donald Bakker was the first Canadian to be convicted under the law in 2005.

He got a 10-year sentence for 10 sexual assaults on girls between seven and 12 in Cambodia, where he videotaped the abuse.

In November of 2008, two Quebec aid workers pleaded guilty to sexually abusing teenage boys while working at an orphanage in Haiti.

Armand Huard was sentenced to three years in prison and Denis Rochefort was given two years.

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