Brian Naswall, the founder and CEO of Aero Cambodia, was arrested last year, reportedly in the act of abusing three underage girls, and was accused by nine victims between the ages of five and 16.
Naswall, 53, denied the charges during his trial in Phnom Penh’s Municipal Court and claimed the case was fabricated, but was found guilty on Tuesday of engaging in child prostitution.
Brian Naswall, founder of AeroCambodia, arrives at the Municipal Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), a non-governmental organization that hunts down suspected foreign pedophiles in Cambodia, said Naswall was arrested by Tonle Basac police in May 2015.
At the time, the organization, claimed, he was engaging in sex with a 12-year-old girl in the presence of two other underage girls.
APLE said Naswall lured the girls to a quiet place surrounding Koh Pich Island and sexually abused them with the promise to pay them up to $20.
After he was arrested, Cambodia’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department took over the investigation. APLE said it helped police to identify more victims.
‘Six other victims had disclosed that they had been sexually exploited on different occasions,’ the organization said in a statement. ‘Finally, police had concluded a total of nine victims.’
Naswall, 53, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $12,000 in compensation to his victims
A member of his legal team said he would appeal the ruling.
On his LinkedIn profile, Naswall described himself as a part-time pilot and world traveler.
He claimed to have worked as a locomotive engineer who operated trains in Oregon, Washington, Montana, California and Idaho in the US, British Columbia in Canada, Thailand, Cambodia and Mexico.
Naswall’s sentence is the latest effort by officials in the impoverished nation in Southeast Asia to punish pedophiles who travel from abroad and prey on children.
Vando Khoem, the program director of APLE, called for Naswall to be deported after he serves his sentence.
‘I applaud the decision of the court. However, I express my heartfelt disappointment that the court didn’t order his deportation,’ Khoem said. ‘Without deportation, he would exploit an opportunity to be here to prey on Cambodian children. Deportation should be made automatically.’
Cambodia’s grim reputation as a child sex hub attracted global attention in 2002 when British glam rocker and serial pedophile Gary Glitter was deported over suspected sexual offences.
The country launched a drive in 2003 to shed its reputation as a haven for foreign pedophiles.
Dozens of foreigners have since been prosecuted for child sex crimes but there are still wide gaps in policing.
A landmark study released last month by a coalition of nearly 70 child protection agencies looking at child sex abuse around the world said that while some successes have been made in Southeast Asia, pedophilia remains an ‘enduring phenomenon that has plagued the region for several decades’.