The Siem Reap Provincial Court on Thursday charged Swiss hotelier Rudolf Knuckel, 67, with purchasing child prostitution following the prominent expatriate’s third arrest for sexually abusing young boys in Cambodia on Wednesday, court officials said.
“I charged him with purchasing child prostitution and have sent him to the investigating judge to decide whether or not to put him in pretrial detention,” deputy provincial court prosecutor Chuon Sophea said.
Knuckel—who since 1991 has served as managing director of five high-end hotels in Siem Reap City including the colonial-era Grand Hotel d’Angkor—was arrested on his 67th birthday on Wednesday, after three youths, aged 13, 15 and 18, claimed he had sexually abused them—or attempted to do so—earlier this year.
“After conducting an investigation, we found that only the 15-year-old boy was involved [in the abuse],” said Doung Thavry, chief of the provincial anti-human trafficking police.
“He sexually abused the 15-year-old multiple times. He brought the boy to an isolated area outside Siem Reap City…five times, and each time paid him $10 or $15,” Ms. Thavry said.
“The other two boys, he took them to remote areas and attempted to molest them, but they resisted,” she added.
In April 2010, the Siem Reap court sentenced Knuckel to two years in prison for having sex with a 14-year-old boy, of which one year was suspended. In 2000, the pedophile was charged with “debauchery” for having sex with a pair of youths, 14 and 18, but he was released on bail five months later and in 2002, the court dropped the charges against him, citing a lack of evidence.
“Knuckel is a serial child sex offender who will not stop preying on children. We hope that he will be punished to the full extent of the law and…expelled from Cambodia after serving his prison term,” Yi Moden, deputy director of field operations at anti-pedophile NGO Action pour les Enfants, said in a statement released Wednesday.
Mr. Moden said by telephone Thursday that the charge of “purchasing child prostitution” is fitting.
Although neither Mr. Knuckel nor his lawyer could be reached Thursday, his longtime friend and former employee Thanomsak Abbas Sorman, 35, protested his innocence.
“If you find 100 people in Siem Reap who know him, nobody would talk bad about him, I promise you,” said Mr. Thanomsak, a Thai national who works for a private investment firm in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet City, adding that Knuckel paid for his schooling.
Mr. Thanomsak—whose wife and two children live with Mr. Knuckel in Siem Reap City—said he plans to extract the Swiss from his latest legal predicament if possible.
“My family will organize to find a lawyer and bring the food to Mr. Rudolf [in prison],” he said.