The price of justice

April 18, 2012

In my job, I have to deal with a lot of property developments; Phnom Penh is full of half-built grand skyscrapers looming above the skyline. Last week I had to write a story about a new development on Cambodia’s south coast, on an island called Koh Puos, or Snake Island. It turned out I’d actually stumbled across the island last year, and had been horrified by what the developers were trying to do to this pristine little patch of paradise.

But as I researched the development, and made a few calls, a far more horrifying story emerged; one that seems to have much to do with the state of Cambodia today.

In 2006 the Cambodian People’s Party, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, was approached by a Russian property developer who wanted to buy an island. So they let him.

Alexander Trofimov created a Cambodian shell company to buy Snake Island. With money seemingly no object, he said he would also link the island to the mainland with a 900-metre suspension bridge. No figures were published, but the number $300 million was often bandied around. No one knows where the money came from, but Cambodia has consistently refused to sign up to international money laundering agreements. No one knows where much of the money has gone, but Cambodia is, sadly, famous for the scale of its corruption.

Trofimov produced a book of seemingly cut-and-pasted designs that he said would encompass a $200 million resort consisting of 900 villas, a dolphin aquarium, two hotels, a shopping centre and a marina – all crammed onto the tiny island. The website for the project looks fabulous. The bridge is now complete.

However, the project was slowed considerably when it emerged that Alexander Trofimov wasn’t who he said he was, but was in fact called Stanislav Molodyakov. This fact emerged after he was charged with raping 19 underage Cambodian girls aged between six and 15, some of whom he found when they were collecting cans on the beach to sell. Molodyakov also turned out to be on the run from Russia, and wanted by Interpol for sex offences against six children under the age of 10 in Russia.

ImageStanislav Molodyakov

Luckily for Snake Island, two more Russian businessmen seamlessly emerged to take over the project, representing a Cypriot holding company that, it later transpired, had owned the Koh Puos project from the start.

Luck was also on Trofimov’s side; he went to trial, and was eventually sentenced to eight years, although he faced up to 20 years on each charge. This might help to explain why there are quite as many paedophiles as there are in Cambodia. The judge accepted that Trofimov had paid as little as $5 and as much as $2,000 for sex with girls but he reduced the sentence “because he apologized and, as a foreigner, did not know the local laws.”

Even more luckily for Trofimov, he was released after just four years, after being granted a royal pardon. It was noted after his release that he hadn’t served the hardest of times: he had been given an especially comfortable private cell, and was frequently allowed out for the evening.

Image

Once out of prison, Trofimov promptly disappeared. Interpol are still looking for him; the Russians want him, and an arrest warrant has been issued for him in Cambodia. The local police claim, somewhat unconvincingly, that he’s in Vietnam or Thailand. But really, if you were a predatory paedophile with access to stacks of cash and friends in very high places (a royal pardon!) where better to be than Cambodia?

This makes me sad.

If you know where Alexander Trofimov is, I’d love to know.

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4 Responses to “The price of justice”

  1. Nicola said

    This is so shocking – on so many levels, I can’t pull together my thoughts enough to really leave a comment – except for this. Well done for publicising it.

  2. neva shaw said

    ONE OF MANY .. a horror story …. Been in Cambodia befor the Killing Fields ……….. it was always the same …thank you ..I LIVED IN HK FOR 42 years …. know your father .. best regards … neva

  3. This reminds me of Glenn Greenwalds book with: ‘Liberty and Justice for Some.’ Although his arguments are firmly rooted in the failings of the American legal system, it seems that elites across the world have largely become free to act with impunity. Whilst some of the stories in America’s recent history are almost humorous they are so preposterous, in a country like Cambodia there is something deeply sad and tragic about people like Molodyakov acting above the law.

  4. […] followers of this blog might remember a piece I wrote recently about a Russian paedophile called Alexander Trofimov. Apparently he has finally been re-arrested, and will be deported to […]

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