A Ukrainian lawmaker accused of raping a minor in Phnom Penh in 2011 had escaped the country before the courts could catch up with him, the head of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department said Tuesday.
Mykola Kniazhytsky, 46, who was elected to Ukraine’s parliament as a member of the People’s Front party in November, however, maintains that he is being defamed by an old rival with powerful connections in Cambodia, while officials in Phnom Penh were mostly unable to offer details about the case Tuesday.
Interpol’s website lists Mr. Kniazhytsky as wanted in Cambodia on suspicion of rape. According to a translation of a statement from Ukraine’s Interpol bureau, Cambodian authorities are seeking the extradition of Mr. Kniazhytsky for the rape of a minor in Phnom Penh on September 9, 2011.
However, of 10 well-placed officials contacted Tuesday, only Major General Pol Phiethey, chief of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking unit, could shed any light on the allegations.
“The victim complained to the [Phnom Penh Municipal] Court directly and the offender escaped before going to court,” he said, adding that his unit was not involved in the investigation. “That is all the information I have. You should contact the court.”
At the municipal court, six deputy prosecutors said by telephone that they could not recall a case against Mr. Kniazhytsky. Lim Sokha Raksmey, acting director of Cambodia’s Interpol office, could not be reached.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, and Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said they knew nothing about this case. Keo Thea, chief of the Phnom Penh municipal anti-trafficking bureau, said he had “never heard of the name of this Ukrainian man.”
Similarly, Samleang Seila, director of Action Pour les Enfants, a child protection NGO that handles most child-sex cases involving foreigners in Cambodia, said Mr. Kniazhytsky did not appear in his organization’s records.
Mr. Kniazhytsky says he was not in Cambodia on the date of the alleged rape, explaining that he hosted the television program “Evening With Mykola Kniazhytsky” in Kiev the night before.
In an email Tuesday, the wanted parliamentarian said he visited Cambodia once for two days—“a long time before the alleged crime took place” and at the invitation of a Cambodian official—but declined to say when the trip took place.
Mr. Kniazhytsky said the “false accusations” were concocted by Konstantin Kagalovsky, the former owner of TVi, a television network where he was once CEO.
“[Mr. Kagalovsky] repeatedly threatened me with fabricated criminal prosecution in Cambodia since he has good connections with local authorities and also he is a big investor there,” he said.
Mr. Kniazhytsky also questioned the timing of his sudden status as one of Interpol’s most wanted men, as he was placed on the global police organization’s Red Notice list shortly after Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong’s visit to Moscow from March 2 to 4, during which he discussed the creation of a bilateral extradition treaty with his Russian counterpart.
It is “absurd,” Mr. Kniazhytsky said, that the allegations arose “immediately after the visit of Foreign Minister of Cambodia to Moscow and Mr. Kagalovsky helped with organizing this visit.”
“It is also barely a secret that he [Mr. Kagalovsky] is one of the major investors to the country [Cambodia] and [has] friendly connection with high officials there.”