An American man was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday for sexually abusing at least six young girls last year.
Brian Naswall, the 53-year-old former CEO of local aviation company Aero Cambodia, was found guilty of purchasing child prostitution over a 2015 incident in which he paid underage girls to touch his genitals. He was also ordered by Presiding Judge Khy Chhay to pay each of his victims 8 million riel, or about $2,000, in compensation.
Mr. Naswall was arrested in May last year after police caught him in the act of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island in the presence of two other underage girls, according to anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE). Following his arrest, the families of six girls came forward with complaints against him, the group said.
As he was escorted from the courtroom on Tuesday, Mr. Naswall maintained his innocence and vowed to appeal the guilty verdict.
“It was all just a sham,” he said of the trial. “I never consulted a lawyer. [The court-appointed] lawyer never spoke to me one time—never asked me about my case, my evidence, my witnesses.”
“And human trafficking? What human trafficking?” he said, referring to the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, under which he was charged.
Mr. Naswall said government officials had conspired with APLE to frame him and insisted that the three girls he was found with on Koh Pich last year were friends of his family, explaining that he had a Cambodian wife and 6-year-old daughter.
“I will 100 percent appeal,” he said.
Contacted by telephone, Mr. Naswall’s lawyer, Mon Vimean Champa, suggested that her client was guilty, but said the sentence was too severe, given that his victims had admitted to performing sexual acts for money in the past.
“There were agreements and no force was used,” she added.
APLE country director Samleang Seila said Mr. Naswall’s accusations against the organization were “not surprising.”
“It’s very common in all those pedophile cases. They just try to blame someone else,” he said. “In this case, it was an investigation by Cambodian authorities in coordination with U.S. authorities, so clearly the verdict is true.”
In a statement released after the sentencing on Tuesday, APLE bemoaned the municipal court’s decision not to order Mr. Naswall’s deportation upon completion of his prison term, considering the “high risk” he posed to Cambodian children. It added that a total of nine victims had reported being abused by Mr. Naswall.
In January, residents of Mr. Naswall’s former apartment building in the capital’s Borei Keila neighborhood told reporters that the American was regularly seen inviting underage girls into his room.
“I always saw young girls going to his room, but I had no interest in his life,” Mr. Naswall’s landlord, Eng Vanny, said at the time. “I never saw women over 20, or any men, just small girls.”
Two young sisters in the area—both around 5 or 6 years old—said Mr. Naswall had been a friend of their father and paid them 1,000 riel, or about $0.25, each time they “played with his penis.”
“When I heard what happened to my daughters, I was very angry,” said their father. “The law will take care of him.”
(Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy and Matt Blomberg)