A New Zealander who was granted a royal pardon last month was deported on Monday after serving just 11 years of a 20-year sentence for raping five teenage girls he had employed as housekeepers, an official said Tuesday.
In February 2004, the Siem Reap Provincial Court sentenced Graham Cleghorn to 20 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence, for raping the girls, aged between 15 and 19, and for illegally possessing firearms.
Uk Heisela, head of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said Mr. Cleghorn, 66, was deported on Monday morning.
“He was pardoned for the king’s birthday and they released him four months before the end of his sentence,” he said.
In a list of pardons provided by Major General Heisela, King Norodom Sihamoni gave Mr. Cleghorn a royal pardon on May 8, ahead of his May 14 birthday.
In a separate letter, Prey Sar prison director Srun Leang informs the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons that Mr. Cleghorn should be released.
The letter also states that the Appeal Court reduced Mr. Cleghorn’s prison sentence in May last year, but does not give a reason.
“[T]he verdict dated 30 May 2014 decided to imprison [Mr. Cleghorn] to 12 years in prison and after serving his prison term, he is to be sent out of Cambodia,” it says.
According to an article published by the New Zealand news website stuff.co.zn, Mr. Cleghorn arrived at the Wellington Airport on Tuesday afternoon to waiting friends and family.
A spokesman for New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said by telephone that he did not know whether Mr. Cleghorn would face charges at home or why his sentence was reduced.
“We don’t comment on other countries’ judicial decisions,” he said.
During Mr. Cleghorn’s 2004 trial, a lawyer representing the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC), an NGO that assisted police in the investigation, said the five victims told the NGO that the New Zealander had raped them.
The lawyer added that Mr. Cleghorn had employed 16 women at his home to do house work, but had also paid them for sex and to give him massages.
Mr. Cleghorn’s Cambodian wife, Buth Toeu, 45, received a three-year suspended sentence for being an accomplice in her husband’s crimes.
Throughout the following years of hearings and delayed trials—Mr. Cleghorn’s appeal was not rejected until July 2007—the case received widespread media attention both in Cambodia and abroad.
In March 2004, the now-defunct Far Eastern Economic Review published an article accusing CWCC of bribing young girls to confess against suspected rapists and pedophiles.
The article focused on Mr. Cleghorn’s case and quoted two girls, who did not accuse him of rape, as saying that a CWCC employee pressured them to testify against him.
In 2006, Mr. Cleghorn, who has maintained his innocence since he was accused, took a similar line, and began accusing the NGO of paying the victims $10,000 each to testify against him.
CWCC then filed a defamation suit against Mr. Cleghorn at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which in November 2012 found him guilty and fined him 2 million riel (about $500) and ordered him to pay the NGO 5 million riel (about $1,250) in compensation.
© 2015, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.