A German expatriate accused of sexually abusing five young boys told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday that the mothers of two of his alleged victims had framed him after he threatened to report one of them for stealing his iPad.
Udo Sabiniewicz, 56, was arrested at his FX Animation video dubbing studio in Chbar Ampov district in June and subsequently charged on multiple counts of indecent acts against minors.
During the first day of his trial on Thursday morning, he spent the better part of three hours responding to a series of repetitive and seemingly irrelevant questions from the prosecution and attorneys for the plaintiffs, including a lawyer for child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE).
After answering questions about how many air-conditioning units he had, what “horsepower” they ran on, and whether he had mosquito nets in his studio, which doubles as his residence, Mr. Sabiniewicz explained how he met the mother of one of his alleged victims while sitting inside an otherwise empty bar on Street 172.
“She sat down next to me, asked me to buy her a drink, and told me about her bad situation: Her French husband had just died and the father of her child had also died,” he told the court, leading the woman to interject from the gallery: “It’s not true, it’s not true.”
“She asked me if I knew of any work and I offered her to work for me [as a cleaner], but after she came to my house for a couple of days, I realized she was not interested in any work at all,” he continued.
“Every day she was drunk, always with her child. We would go out sometimes in the evening and she would be introducing him to foreigners: ‘This is my son, he wants to learn English and talk to you.’”
Mr. Sabiniewicz, who also goes by the name Theodor Symon, said the woman then told him that she was indebted to her landlord and could not return home, and that he offered her a place to stay in his studio, downstairs from his bedroom.
After “four or five days” of putting up with what he described as “very bad behavior” by her and her son, he told the court, he gave her $150 to settle the debt with her landlord so he could “get rid of her.”
During the hearing, the suspect intermittently turned the pages of a stapled set of photographs of the woman that he had brought to the courthouse and placed on the bench beside him. One showed her smoking what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette; in another, she is wearing a revealing red dress, using her hands to accentuate her breasts for the camera.
“Her lifestyle was not suitable,” he told the court.
Soon after the woman left, he said, he was contacted by another woman looking for similar work. (The two women sat together in court on Thursday and left the premises together.)
Mr. Sabiniewicz said he also offered the second woman a job as a cleaner, and that she came to the studio with her son, too, but never spent the night there.
While working for him, he said, the second woman disappeared for two weeks, and when she finally returned on June 13, with her son and daughter, he fired her and drove her and her children home.
The suspect told the court that his iPad had been in the back seat of his car, and that he realized shortly after dropping them off that it had been stolen. He and a number of friends, including his previous cleaner, called and threatened police action if the iPad was not returned, he said.
“The day before I was arrested, she [the second woman] told me, word for word, ‘I have a brother in the police and I can take what I want. If you complain, we will come and arrest you,” he said. “I was laughing.”
When San Sony, the APLE lawyer, took over questioning, she focused on the suspect’s personal history, repeatedly asking him to tell her his address in Germany.
“If you have no address, it shows that you have no stability,” Ms. Sony said. “In your passport, there is no specific address. It seems that you are hiding something.”
“I lived in Cambodia for the past two years and in Vietnam for four years before that, do you want the Vietnam address,” the defendant said.
“No, I want your house address in Germany,” she replied. Mr. Sabiniewicz ultimately gave a city and house number.
Ms. Sony asked Sabiniewicz why he had told police that his original cleaner was his girlfriend, to which he responded by exhaling loudly and raising his arms in a display of despair. “I did not say that to police,” he said.
Outside the courtroom, the first woman said that everything the German had said inside was a lie. She said her son had lived with him for three months—because she worked a night shift at a cafe—and that he sexually abused the boy for two months.
“When my son told me, I almost fall down and die,” she said. “I want him to pay. Not so much, just about $5,000 so my son can go to private school.”
The second woman declined to comment.
Presiding Judge Heng Soknan said the trial would resume late next month.