The first trial in Cambodia’s largest-ever debauchery case began Tuesday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with accused Russian businessman Alexander Trofimov rejecting claims by a 14-year-old girl—one of Trofimov’s 19 alleged victims—that he had sex with her.
During the trial, which was open to the public at the request of the victim, the 14-year-old testified that Trofimov, whom she referred to as Sasha, promised to pay her $1,000 to have sex with him 10 times.
“It was painful and I cried all the time,” she said after pointing to Trofimov during the trial, but added that she could not recall which month the alleged sexual encounters took place.
The girl also alleged that co-defendant Phal Vannara, a Cambodian man charged with conspiracy to commit debauchery, brought her to have sex with a French national in Phnom Penh. The unidentified Frenchman then took her to Sihanoukville and introduced her to Trofimov, who she claimed had sex with her four times.
The trial took an odd turn when the girl’s older brother testified that his sister was actually 16 years old when the alleged crime was committed and asked the court to drop the case. Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan rejected both the request to drop the case and the assertion that the victim was not 14.
The girl also denied her brother’s claim and asked for the trial to continue.
“[Trofimov] did a lot of bad things to me,” she said, adding that she was seeking $200,000 in damages from Trofimov.
Trofimov, 41, executive director of Koh Puos (Cambodia) Investment Group Ltd, was arrested in Sihanoukville and charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Oct 18. His lawyers claimed that he had been “trapped” by anti-pedophile NGO International Justice Mission, which aided in the police investigation.
“I feel that I am not guilty,” Trofimov told the court. “I request that the court find justice for me and release me.”
Speaking during the trial, defense attorney So Dara speculated that the Frenchman from the girl’s testimony might be an IJM staffer. He accused IJM of “trapping” Trofimov and asked the court to investigate who the Frenchman was and the age of the victim.
An official for IJM declined to comment on the case until after the court had issued its verdict.
Nhean Sovann, one of the three panel judges, announced at the end of Tuesday’s session that a verdict will be handed down by the court on Friday for both Trofimov and Phal Vannara.
Sok Kalyan told reporters during a break that it was still uncertain whether the trial for the remaining 18 victims would be held in Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville, where the alleged crimes took place.
(Additional reporting by James Welsh)