Pizzeria Manager Charged Over Forcing Teen to Work, Have Sex

The Moldovan manager of an Italian pizzeria and wine shop in Phnom Penh was on Monday charged with the “unlawful removal” of a 19-year-old girl from her home country whom she allegedly forced to work without pay and subjected to sexual exploitation, according to officials and an NGO.

Anti-human trafficking police raided the Ga Do Italian Pizza & Wine Shop on Street 136 in Daun Penh district on Friday, arresting the manager, Liudmila Bejenari, 26, and rescuing the 19-year-old girl.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth said Monday that he charged Ms. Bejenari with unlawful removal with purpose under the anti-human trafficking law, which carries a prison sentence of between seven and 15 years.

Investigating Judge Chea Sokheng said he would continue to question Ms. Bejenari, who remains in police custody.

Men Rotha, a deputy bureau chief at the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said the 19-year-old was now in the care of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). He said the organization was working to return the girl to her home country.

Leul Mekonnen, who heads the IOM’s Cambodia office, could not be reached.

Agape International Missions, a Christian anti-sex trafficking NGO that assisted police with Friday’s raid, said Monday that the arrest of Ms. Bejenari followed a desperate telephone call from the victim to her parents in Moldova.

“She managed to get a hold of a phone without anyone noticing, through a third party, and make a phone call,” said Eric Meldrum, Agape’s investigations director. “She’s pretty scared of these people.”

According to Agape, the victim’s parents then notified Moldovan authorities, who contacted officials in Cambodia.

Mr. Meldrum said the victim came to Cambodia in August 2014 to work at the pizzeria, an opportunity arranged by Ms. Bejenari.

“She was being forced to work with no pay and being forced to have sex with people,” he said. “It was all taken care of by the woman now in court; it was all arranged by her, she [the victim] came for the job.”

“The place is also a guesthouse,” he added. “She worked downstairs and they held her upstairs. I believe the bad working conditions were from the start, but the sex, that’s still being investigated.”

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