Investigation Continues as Details Leak on Orphanage Owner’s Misconduct

Police in Siem Reap City yesterday continued interviewing witnesses as part of an investigation into Nicholas Griffin, the 52-year-old British director of the Cambodia Orphan Fund orphanage charged with indecent acts against boys in his care, according to police.

Mr Griffin was charged Friday with molesting two boys in 2008 and one this year and is being held the provincial prison, according to provincial police, who are collaborating with the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center and the anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants in the investigation.

Police and CEOP officers spent yesterday interviewing current and former COF staff, who told reporters that they were asked by police not to discuss the ongoing inquiry.

“Mr Griffin committed misconduct with three underage boys, one living in the center, one who had lived in the center and was still under the center’s care and one who was not associated with the center,” said provincial anti-human trafficking police chief Sun Bunthorng.

Mr Bunthorng added that Mr Griffin’s arrest had been made “based on evidence given by the children,” who he said had yet to file official complaints.

APLE Director Samleang Seila said yesterday that two of the three boys Mr Griffin was charged Friday with molesting had previously made complaints against him in 2008. According to Mr Seila, Mr Griffin was summoned to the court after the boys provided evidence against him, was briefly questioned and mysteriously released.

Provincial prosecutor Ty Sovinthal denied any knowledge of the 2008 questioning.

Mr Seila claimed that all three boys described similar experiences: alleging that they had been taken to Mr Griffin’s home, asked to undress, washed by Mr Griffin then told to sleep with him in his bed. The boys went to sleep with their clothes on but woke up to found them missing, Mr Seila said.

“After 2008, when we talked to a number of children that we identified as having been potential targets they said they were brought to his home, then showered with him and slept in his bed,” said Mr Seila, adding that all but one boy recanted when interviewed by police in the presence of their parents this year.

The alleged victims’ ages given by Mr Seila did not match those given by police.

According to Mr Seila, CEOP was also involved in the 2008 case against Mr Griffin and returned this year to investigate COF because “they believed he was a dangerous person.” CEOP representatives could not be reached yesterday.

COF’s board of advisers released a brief statement on Sunday night, saying: “Given the current circumstances and ongoing investigations, the board of advisers has temporarily assumed responsibility for all children previously under the care of COF. We are working with the relevant authorities to ensure their safety and well-being. Counseling and psychological care will be available for all children and staff.”

COF operated several houses in Siem Reap and had just moved some of its children into a walled compound outside the city when Mr Griffin was arrested.

Asked about the case, Ten Borany, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said crimes against children were a government priority.

“We continue urging the provincial officials to pay attention to such matters,” said Mr Borany.

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