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World News

Russian pianist faces Thai paedophile rape charge

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Award-winning Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev has been arrested at a Thai beach resort, accused of raping a boy, police said on Wednesday.

Award-winning Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev (L), 53, speaks with a policeman at his residence in the beach town of Pattaya July 5, 2010. Pletnev, an acclaimed pianist and conductor of the Russian National Orchestra, was arrested in Pattaya charged with raping a 14-year-old Thai boy and appearing in compromising photographs with several others. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if found guilty. Picture taken July 5, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer

Pletnev, 53, an acclaimed pianist and conductor of the Russian National Orchestra, was arrested in Pattaya charged with raping a 14-year-old Thai boy and appearing in compromising photographs with several others.

“We received a tip-off from a detained Thai man who is involved in a prostitution ring. And we received more information from the child’s parents, the child himself and other witnesses,” Police Lieutenant-Colonel Omsin Sukkanka said.

Omsin said Pletnev denied the allegations.

Pletnev was served with an arrest warrant while having dinner at a restaurant on Monday evening. He was released on 300,000 baht ($9,000) bail on Tuesday but will have to ask for court permission to leave the country.

He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Police said Pletnev had a house and several businesses in Pattaya, a popular tourist destination 150 km (90 miles) from Bangkok.

The resort town has been known for its vibrant nightlife and sex trade since the days of the Vietnam War, partly due to its proximity to an American air force base at the time.

Pletnev is a member of the Russian president’s advisory board on culture and holds the title of “people’s artist,” the highest state merit conferred on people in the arts.

He founded the Russian National Orchestra, whose recording of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Beintus’s Wolf Tracks, conducted by Kent Nagano and narrated by Sophia Loren, Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, received a 2004 Grammy Award.

In 2005, he won a Grammy Award for his own arrangement of Prokofiev’s Cinderella.

Reporting by Ambika Ahuja; Editing by Alan Raybould and Nick Macfie

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