The convicted Russian pedophile Stanislav Molodyakov could be eligible for parole in under three years after the Court of Appeal yesterday cut nine years from his 17-year jail sentence for sexually abusing 17 underage girls between 2006 and 2007.
Anti-human trafficking and human rights workers yesterday were left bitterly disappointed by the court’s decision in the country’s largest-ever child sex case, while lawyers representing the victims said they planned to lodge an appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court today.
Announcing the verdict yesterday, Presiding Judge Seng Sivutha said Molodyakov’s recent apology to his victims had helped sway the court to accept his lawyers’ request for a “consolidation” of the three separate jail sentences he is currently serving. The apology came only after Molodyakov’s initial convictions.
Molodyakov, 43, who was arrested in 2007 under the alias Alexander Trofimov, had previously been convicted in three trials, including one case where he was found guilty of committing indecent acts on 15 underage girls and two others where he was found guilty of buying sex with children. The jail sentences handed down in the three convictions were eight-years, six-years and three-years.
The court yesterday confirmed the guilty verdicts from the three previous cases, where Molodyakov was found to have paid between $5 and $1,000 for his victims’ services.
“The court decided to choose one case–the purchasing of a 13-year-old child prostitute for which the defendant is currently serving eight-years in prison–to consolidate the sentences,” Judge Sivutha said.
Judge Sivutha said the consolidation meant that Molodyakov’s separate six and three-year jail sentences from the other two cases would effectively be absorbed into the longer sentence.
By law, the decision means that Molodyakov–who has already served more than three years in prison–could be eligible to apply for parole in under two and a half years, having served two-thirds of the eight-year sentence.
The victims’ lawyer, Noun Phanith, said yesterday he was very surprised by the judges’ ruling as he believed it was the first time a sex offender had had multiple sentences consolidated.
“The public and I cannot accept this decision…because the judge did not consider the massive damage caused to the victims,” he said.
Shawn Kohl, deputy field office director for the International Justice Mission, an anti-human trafficking organization from the US, said yesterday that he was also disappointed by the court’s decision and by the prospect that Molodyakov could soon be free.
“It is hard to imagine that anyone would allow him back on the streets to potentially terrorize young and vulnerable girls,” Mr Kohl said.
Thun Saray, president of local human rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that the consolidated sentence appeared manifestly inadequate, given the age of the girls involved.
“We believe that the sentence handed down in this case is far too light,” Mr Saray said.
Samleang Seila, country director for Action Pour Les Enfants, a French NGO focused on combating pedophilia who provided legal representation to Molodyakov’s victims, said APLE lawyers would appeal the sentence reduction today.
“We are very disappointed with the verdict and will file an appeal” today, Mr Seila said, adding that some of the victims who had been informed of the decision had reacted negatively. “The decision will bring Cambodia 10 years back in time” in its efforts to prevent child sex tourism, he said.
As has been the case at most of his hearings, Molodyakov did not appear in court yesterday.
Molodyakov’s lawyer Saing Vannak, however, said he was pleased with the court’s judgment as it had followed legal procedure.
“I am happy that I can receive this verdict from the Court of Appeal and my client will not appeal,” Mr Vannak said.
At the time of his arrest in September 2007, Molodyakov was the executive director of Koh Puos Investment Group, a firm building a $300 million holiday resort on a Preah Sihanouk province island.
In June the Court of Appeal rejected an extradition request from Russia, where Molodyakov is wanted on charges of sex crimes against children. Officials at the Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh were unavailable yesterday.