- Associated Press - Thursday, July 8, 2010

BANGKOK (AP) - Acclaimed pianist and conductor Mikhail Vasillievich Pletnev may have left Thailand days after he was charged with raping a teenage boy, his housekeeper and news reports said Thursday.

Pletnev, who was arrested at a restaurant Monday in the beach town of Pattaya, left Thailand aboard an Aeroflot flight, according to Russisan state news agency RIA Novosti. Another news agency said he was flying to Moscow via Dubai on an Emirates airliner. His housekeeper in Pattaya, contacted by The Associated Press by telephone, said Pletnev left Wednesday night and was headed for Moscow. She declined to give her name.

Pletnev was released on 300,000 baht ($9,000) bail following a court appearance in Pattaya on Tuesday and ordered to report to the court every 12 days. The musician could face up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,200) if he is found guilty.

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.

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 crack down on such offenses, and Pletnev’s arrest is one of the most prominent cases to date.

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

Police Lt. Col. Omsin Sukkanka said evidence in the case included a statement from a 14-year-old boy who said Pletnev had raped him twice at Traipob’s home.

“The boy said he had lived in Traipob’s house for a year and was raped by Pletnev twice. The first time was in the middle of last year and the second early this year,” Omsin said. He added that Pletnev had appeared in some photographs with the alleged victim, but no suspicious activity was depicted.

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.

Pletnev owns a restaurant and the Euro Club _ which includes a swimming pool and badminton courts _ in Pattaya where he reportedly lives in a palatial compound.

The resort is known for its wide-open night life, foreign criminal gangs and police suspected of corruption. It is also a major destination for Russian tourists.

The newspaper Pattaya Daily News said Pletnev has lived in Thailand for the past 15 years. It quoted him as saying in an interview that the charges against him may have stemmed from his relationship with Traipob, “a talented artist” whom he had known for many years.

Pletnev said Traipob helped care for his properties when he was on the road, and that he had no knowledge about the man’s alleged involvement in a child-sex ring.

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Associated Press writers Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok and Jim Heintz and David Nowak in Moscow contributed to this report.

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Online:

Russian National Orchestra: https://www.russianarts.org/rno/index.cfm

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