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6 Jul, 2010 13:43

Grammy-winning Russian pianist faces pedophilia charges

World renowned pianist and principal conductor of the Russian National Orchestra Mikhail Pletnev has been charged with raping a 14-year-old boy in the city of Pattaya, Thailand.

Pletnev, 53, was apprehended at Euro Club and Restaurant, a venue in the resort city of Pattaya, which the pianist co-owns. Pletnev was later escorted to his residence, where a search revealed a number of child pornography videos, Pattaya Daily News reports.

Police explained that previously another man, a Thai citizen, had been detained on similar charges, which prompted further investigation and eventually led them to Pletnev.

Mikhail Pletnev was released on $9000 bail and ordered to report to the court every 12 days.

However, the Thai court has allowed Pletnev to leave the country to go on tour if he puts in more bail and reports back to the court by July 18.

Omsin Sukkankha, head of the investigative team, said that Pletnev was facing charges of pedophilia and complicity in organizing a child prostitution ring. Police have also stated that they possess incriminating video and photographic evidence, as well as testimonies against Pletnev.

If convicted, Pletnev could face up to 20 years in prison.

"This whole thing is a misunderstanding," Mikhail Pletnev said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. He also had no intention of leaving Thailand, the agency reported.

However, Evgeny Belenky, head of the RIA Novosti news bureau in Bangkok, who has spoken to one of the investigators involved in Pletnev’s case, said it is still unclear what course the investigation would take.

There was a family that accused him of having intercourse with one of their children,” Belenky stated. “It doesn’t mean that there is any evidence presented to the police at this stage, because only the court in Thailand can decide which side is right or wrong, and is he really guilty or not… The police only have a statement from the family, and they have to investigate.”

The musician's colleagues in Russia say they are shocked by the allegations. Violinist Dmitry Kogan told RT that Pletnev has made an enormous contribution to the world of classical music.

“Mikhail Pletnev is a key figure in contemporary piano music,” Kogan said. “I'd say he's one of the top musicians in his field. His career spans three decades, with a great number of recordings both as a pianist and as a conductor. The world knows and admires his work.”

Pavel Astakhov, commissioner for children's rights in Russia, said it is every government’s responsibility to keep track of people suspected of child sex crimes, regardless of their status or celebrity.

“Thai authorities often turn a blind eye to these kinds of cases because they scare tourists away. But Americans, for example, keep track of their own people who go to such places with uncertain intentions. And if they commit crimes, such as child molesting, the US brings them to justice,” Astakhov said. “Those whose guilt isn't proven are put on a special list. We are planning to build a similar scheme for our citizens, and there will be no exceptions for anyone.”