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Vietnam: Glitter/paedophiles prowling SE Asia

Publish Date: 05 Mar 2006

Source: Sunday Herald, Scotland

Leader of the Gang

IF it
weren’t for the fact that Gary Glitter ended up in a foreign prison for abusing children, the saga of his life and crimes in southeast Asia would be typical of the countless Western child sex tourists who haunt the cities, villages and resorts of countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Few paedophiles who rape and molest children overseas ever see the inside of a prison cell. In that respect, Glitter breaks the stereotype. On Friday, he was jailed for three years for sexually abusing two Vietnamese girls aged 11 and 12.

“In many ways, Glitter, 61, represents the typical offender,” says Christine Beddoe, of ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking). “He goes overseas to escape detection for his crimes, knowing he can’t carry out these offences in the UK anymore; and he goes to a country steeped in poverty where children are vulnerable and families can be exploited.”

Take a paedophile from France, Britain, America or Italy and place them in a city such as Hanoi, Phnom Penh or Bangkok and they will seek out their victims using one thing – cash. “While Glitter lived in Vietnam, other offenders will travel in and out as tourists,” says Beddoe. “Both types of offender, however, have a grand lifestyle in comparison to local people. Many give the impression that they can improve a child’s life. Some – like Glitter – say they want to help teach the child English.

“They don’t go about their crimes in a blatant way – they undertake a form of grooming of the families and children. In the UK, a paedophile will spend time becoming a child’s best friend, overseas it’s a matter of saying ‘the kid should stay over with me, I’ve got a shower, I’ve got a TV’. They use their wealth to attract. It is a cycle of manipulation and abuse.

“It is then very easy to pay off the families. They might not be well- educated, they might not understand the impact of abuse on their children. It’s very easy to sit here in Britain and be shocked, but someone is giving them more money than they could ever imagine and that gives them a chance to get an education for their children.

“You don’t have to be rich to do this. If you go to Vietnam with £100 in your pocket you are really wealthy.”

Glitter ticks nearly every box in this check list. He paid a little more than £1000 to the families of two girls he was accused of raping after being arrested by Vietnamese police. At that point, the former pop star – real name Paul Gadd – faced death by firing squad for sex with underage girls, but after the payment, the families of the victim asked the court for clemency and he subsequently faced lesser charges of molesting the girls.

Testimony in the original Vietnamese police dossier revealed in explicit detail how Glitter had sex with a 10-year-old while the child’s aunt, who had sold the girl to Glitter for less than £30, watched. Glitter also paid a homeless 19-year-old prostitute to bring a 12-year-old girl to him for sex.

Shy Keenan, one of Britain’s leading campaigners for abused children, says that paedophiles, intent on travelling overseas to rape children, network on the internet and that this “online sex offender community” exchanges information about which countries to visit, which villages to spend time in and how local law enforcement responds to paedo phile crimes.

“These websites are ‘how-to guides’ for perverts,” says Keenan, who runs the charity Phoenix Survivors which supports victims of child sexual abuse. As a child, Keenan was raped repeatedly by her stepfather, who also prostituted her. When she was sent to a children’s care home she was abused by teachers. Her campaigning led to her being named Britain’s “Children’s Champion”.

KEENAN provided a list of disturbing websites to the Sunday Herald which ostensibly break no laws, as they contain no pornographic images of children. Instead, the sites give detailed information to paedophiles travelling overseas. Some talked about where to go if the reader was a “boy-lover” or a “girl-lover”, and many openly call for paedophilia to be legalised, claiming that the position of child molesters today is equivalent to that of homosexuals in the UK in the 1950s.

The infamous, now defunct, Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) was once the main means of communication among child molesters, but now there is a proliferation of sites and organi sations. Derek Green, director of RWA, the UK’s globally acclaimed sex crime consultancy which advises law enforcement agencies across the world on offences such as paedophilia, said: “These sites provide forums on which paedophiles can talk about their experiences and beliefs.

“They don’t believe that what they are doing is abuse even though they are in a poverty-stricken country. There are some people who believe a relationship with an older, wealthy, sophisticated man and a young boy benefits the child. There was even a case of a group of Swedish paedophiles effectively taking over an entire village in Asia, running its economy and abusing the children.” Sometimes, Green points out, parents collude with the paedophile. “Culturally, it is not dreadfully unusual in some parts of the world to sell children,” he adds. Green also believes that the police in some areas are paid to collude with paedophiles. Governments of emerging countries are also reticent about admitting a problem with sex crime against children for fear of being shamed in the eyes of the West.

Green advocates that anyone who is placed on the sex offenders register should have their passport removed in order to prevent them leaving the UK and abusing children overseas. That’s a view shared by Detective Chief Inspector Bob McLachlan, the retired head of Scotland Yard’s paedophile unit, although he feels human rights laws would probably prevent the UK seizing the passports of convicted sex offenders.

But Foreign Travel Orders banning paedophiles from travelling to countries where they are a risk to children, were brought into law in May 2004, as part of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Overseas, sex crime against children is all down to money, says McLachlan. “We’ve exploited the world for years,” he adds. “This time we are doing it sexually, but economics plays its part. When a rich Westerner and someone poor from the Far East meet, we have a power imbalance. These people are scared of getting nicked in Britain, so they go where they think it’s easy. They don’t care about children; they use them. It’s a form of slavery. Once a paedophile is over in the Far East they don’t have to groom kids as much as they would here. The grooming involves his money, power and position – as the Glitter case shows.” McLachlan pointed out that Western migrant workers in the developing world are often found to be involved in paedophile crime. Glitter happened to be staying in an area where migrant oil workers live in Vietnam.

He’d also been seen wandering around bars showing off young girls in his company – another trait of paedo philes overseas. Often, according to experts on sex crime, men who wouldn’t consider themselves to be sex offenders will pay for sex with underage prostitutes while on holiday, and can be seen walking along beaches or through red-light areas with obviously underage girls .

Paedophiles will spend time in an area – just as Glitter did – working out what the weaknesses in law enforcement are, and where they can exploit foreign attitudes, customs and naivety.

There is still an uphill struggle to stamp out Western child-sex tourism in the Far East, however. When McLachlan headed Interpol’s specialist group on crimes against children, the Thai police stopped coming to meetings despite the endemic problem of child exploitation in the country. “Some governments turn a blind eye due to tourism revenues,” he added.

There are two reasons why Glitter’s case differs to most other cases of British sex offenders overseas: firstly, he was caught, whereas most other paedophiles are not – they slip into the country, abuse kids and then return home to their families back in the UK; secondly, British detectives assisted the Vietnam police in the investigation. Previously, intelligence would have been shared or training given to foreign police on how to deal with paedophilic crimes, but never before have British officers helped arrest and prosecute a British sex criminal overseas.

The intention was to secure a high-profile conviction that would serve as a warning shot to other paedophiles. The fear now is that paedophiles will move on to new stalking grounds. Caribbean countries, especially the Dominican Republic, are fast becoming the latest playgrounds for these sex criminals.

“Apart from the role the police played,” says McLachlan, whose unit in Scotland Yard viewed the images of child pornography on Glitter’s computer, which led to his arrest and imprisonment in the UK in 1999, “there is nothing special about Glitter. He’s just the same as any other pervert or paedophile.”

Glitter will probably be out of prison by the end of this year. He’ll also be able to use his considerable private income to bribe enough guards and prisoners to help make his stay relatively luxurious in comparison to the rank and file convicts housed with him. He also had to pay just £180 in compensation to the families of his two victims.

All this goes to show is that a predatory, wealthy, Western paedophile can travel to the Far East, abuse children and spend just a year in jail – finding himself out of pocket to the tune of a mere £2500 in bribe money and fines – for crimes which elsewhere merit a far longer sentence.

“When I say that the barricades against these people haven’t even started to be built around the world, I hope you can tell that I’m making an understatement,” says Bob McLachlan.

Copyright © 2006 smg sunday newspapers ltd