In a letter read out by a clerk at the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh yesterday, the convicted Russian pedophile Stanislav Molodyakov admitted to sexually abusing 16 underage girls and apologized to his victims.
Molodyakov, 43, who was arrested in 2007 under the alias Alexander Trofimov, was expected to appear to appeal his convictions in three separate child sex abuse cases that have left him serving 17 years in jail in Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison.
In his absence yesterday, a court clerk read out a letter from Molodyakov in which he said he was too sick to attend the hearing but wanted to confess his guilt in two of the cases that are now on appeal.
In one case, Molodyakov was convicted last year of committing indecent acts on 15 girls. The other involved the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl. Molodyakov received three-year and eight-year prison sentences for the two convictions.
“I am sorry to the victims’ families, and I am sorry to all Cambodian citizens,” the letter read by the clerk said.
In light of his client’s confessions, Molodyakov’s lawyer, Saing Vannak, asked the court to apply a lighter sentence.
“I request that the court reduce my client’s punishment,” Mr Vannak said, adding that Molodyakov had cooperated with the court.
By law, a request for “consolidation of sentences” can be made to the court and Mr Vannak said after yesterday’s hearing that he believed the provision allowed judges the discretion to apply only the heaviest of the two sentences. In Molodyakov’s case, it would mean serving eight years instead of 11.
Molodyakov would then be eligible for parole in December 2012 after serving fewer than five and a half years.
However, in a third case also heard yesterday, Molodyakov claims he was wrongly convicted in 2008 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl in Phnom Penh, a conviction that, if upheld, could prevent such an early release.
In January, the Supreme Court sent Molodyakov’s appeal back to be reheard by the Court of Appeal after ruling there was insufficient evidence of the victim’s age at the time of the alleged crime.
Yesterday, prosecutor Pan Kimlean and Mr Vannak agreed with the Supreme Court’s findings, while the victim’s lawyer Peng Maneth asked the court to recognize the family book that clearly showed that his client was 14 at the time of the incident.
The court said yesterday that it would deliver verdicts on the three cases on Aug 26.
Patrick Stayton, field office director for the International Justice Mission, an anti-human trafficking organization from the US, said yesterday the defense strategy of appealing for a lighter sentence, if successful, would make a mockery of the court system in Cambodia.
“Any leniency shown by the court would show that the sexual abuse of minors is not viewed as a serious crime in Cambodia,” Mr Stayton said. “If the sentence is reduced and he is released next year, the one after, or even four to five years from now, people would not be able to have any confidence” in the legal system.
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.
Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison chief Top Sophea claimed he was not aware the hearing had taken place yesterday, as he had not received instructions to bring Molodyakov to court. Mr Sophea added that Molodyakov was “a little sick,” suffering from a headache.