Interpol has issued a Red Notice for Dutch pedophile Pieter Ceulen, who went missing around the time he was sentenced to 19 years in prison in Belgium last week for sexually abusing and making pornography with young Cambodian children, including his own adopted daughters.
And while a Belgian journalist and NGO director familiar with the case said on Friday that Mr. Ceulen had likely returned to Cambodia, a local Interpol official said he would wait until Monday to inform police here that the 60-year-old child abuser had been added to the agency’s list of most wanted persons.
On January 21, Mr. Ceulen was convicted in absentia at a court in Antwerp of sexually abusing children, as well as creating, distributing and viewing child pornography, all while living in Cambodia and Belgium and traveling on occasion to the Philippines, according to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
The newspaper reported that police found nearly 400,000 child-pornography photographs and videos on his computer in 2012, some of which show him sexually assaulting and beating newborn babies, abusing his Cambodian daughters, and instructing mothers in the Philippines to do the same with their own children.
But when authorities went to arrest Mr. Ceulen following the sentencing, he was nowhere to be found.
According to Het Nieuwsblad reporter Pieter Huyberechts, Mr. Ceulen was not in custody at the time of his conviction in Belgium because he had demonstrated good behavior, and would have easily been able to flee the country at any point in the past few weeks.
“It was legal for him to leave one month ago, one week ago. He was free to take a plane,” Mr. Huyberechts said by telephone from Antwerp on Friday, adding that those with intimate knowledge of the case believed he had traveled to Cambodia, having lived intermittently in Siem Reap City for years.
“We assume he’s in Cambodia —it’s a logical escape,” he said.
Samleang Seila, director of child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants—which assisted Belgian authorities in identifying Cambodian children in Mr. Ceulen’s vast pornography collection—said local police should be searching for him.
“We got information that he was potentially returning to Cambodia, in particular Siem Reap,” he said. “Police should check his known addresses.”
Lim Chheangleng, assistant head of Interpol’s Cambodia office, however, said that while he was aware of the Red Notice, it was not his job to immediately inform local authorities about it, but would do so next week.
“I’ll do it on Monday,” he said.
“We can detain him when we see him,” Mr. Chheangleng said, adding that if Mr. Ceulen was spotted in Cambodia, “local police will detain him and then send us the information.”
National Police spokesman Saran Komsath said he was not familiar with the case and declined to comment.
Thierry Dalimier, a consul at the Belgian Embassy in Phnom Penh, declined to comment on the case.
Last week, the owner of a hotel in Siem Reap City who identified herself only as Rathana said that she had known Mr. Ceulen for years and had dinner with him in the tourist town as recently as a month ago. She said she had been shocked to hear about his conviction.
(Additional reporting by Buth Kimsay)