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Russian pianist accused of pedophilia in Thailand

world Updated: Jul 07, 2010 12:28 IST

AP
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Internationally acclaimed Russian pianist and conductor Mikhail Vasillievich Pletnev has been charged with raping a 14-year-old boy in a Thai beach town, police said on Wednesday.

Mikhail Vasilievich Pletnev, the founder of the Russian National Orchestra, was charged Tuesday with rape and appearing in compromising photographs with several other boys, said police Lt. Col. Creetha Tankanarat.

He was released on a 300,000 baht ($9,000) bail, ordered to report to the court every 12 days and is banned from contacting any witnesses in the case. He could face up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,200) if found guilty. "This whole thing is a misunderstanding," said Pletnev in a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press but did not elaborate. He said he had no intention of leaving Thailand and was still residing in Pattaya.

Thailand has long been known as a haven for sex tourists and pedophiles because of widespread prostitution and lax law enforcement. Authorities have voiced intentions to crackdown on such offenses, and the Russian's arrest is one of the most prominent cases to date.

Police said the musician was taken in Monday evening following a tip from Traipob Boonmasong, a Thai national who was charged with child rape for his alleged involvement in a child prostitution ring. Police confiscated pictures of young boys, some alongside foreigners.

Pletnev founded the Russian National Orchestra, the country's first independent orchestra, after befriending Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at conference in Washington, D.C., in 1988, and was its first principal conductor, according to the orchestra's website. Today, he is the orchestra's artistic director. Internationally known as a pianist, conductor and composer, Pletnev won a 2005 Grammy for an arrangement of Prokofiev's "Cinderella," which was recorded with him and Martha Argerich on piano.

In Thailand, Pletnev has performed as a guest conductor with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra.

He also owns a restaurant and several businesses, including a badminton club, in Thailand, police said, and keeps private personal watercraft and two powered hang gliders in his residential compound in Pattaya, a resort town known for its wide-open night life, foreign criminal gangs and police suspected of corruption when dealing with criminal cases. It is also a major destination for Russian tourists.