'Trump spy drama escort' pleads for help at Pattaya court
published : 17 Apr 2018 at 16:45
updated: 17 Apr 2018 at 16:58
PATTAYA: A Belarusian model and Russian "sex coach" pleaded for US help as they arrived for a court hearing at Pattaya Provincial Court on Tuesday, in a case that has grabbed widespread attention after the model claimed to have revelations about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.
Anastasia Vashukevich, known by her pen name Nastya Rybka, was arrested with nine other foreigners in February when Thai police raided their sex training course in the seaside city of Pattaya. Since then, they have been held virtually incommunicado at an immigration jail.
"We will not go back to Russia because they opened a new criminal case for us," Vashukevich told AFP from a police van on Tuesday before she and other defendants were whisked into the Pattaya courtroom for the plea hearing.
She and six others were initially charged with lacking a work permit but are now facing additional charges of soliciting prostitution and criminal association, according to Apichai Krobpetch, Pattaya's police chief.
Tuesday's court calendar said they were there for testimony over the charge that they conducted the course without a work permit. The session was closed and it was unclear if they had legal representation. Foreigners found working without a work permit can face fines of up to 100,000 baht and imprisonment for up to five years.
Police last week added additional charges against them of soliciting, which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, and conspiracy, with up to seven years. There have been allegations that Russian officials pressured Thai authorities over the case.
(Video YouTube/Viral Press)
Vashukevich, who is embroiled in a political scandal in Russia, made international headlines after she offered to reveal secrets to American journalists in a video posted on Instagram shortly after her arrest in Pattaya.
"They are trying to put us behind bars... That is why I am ready to tell you about all those missing puzzle pieces that you lacked... regarding a link between our esteemed lawmakers and (Paul) Manafort, Trump and all this brouhaha, the US elections," she said in the video.
She is facing a lawsuit in Russia over footage she filmed purporting to show an influential deputy prime minister, Sergei Prikhodko, enjoying lavish hospitality on a yacht owned by billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
The video went viral after it was published by top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in February.
The model, who has written a book about seducing oligarchs, has not substantiated her claims but does have links to Russia's elite.
Deripaska, one of several Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the US this month, denied any wrongdoing and later sued Vashukevich and Alexander Kirillov, a "sex guru" who was also detained in Thailand, for invasion of privacy.
Anastasia Vashukevich, who was due to appear in a Thai court faces a lawsuit over footage she filmed purporting to show Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko enjoying lavish hospitality on a yacht owned by a billionaire (AFP photo)
Asked if he had a message for the US as he was taken into the court on Tuesday, Kirillov responded: "Help us anyway, because we don't know what is happening."
Deripaska, an aluminium tycoon, was once an associate of US President Donald Trump's ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Manafort has been indicted on money laundering and tax-related charges as part of the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
A participant in the sex training session who was not among those arrested told AFP that Vashukevich fears being deported back to Russia.
Three other participants have either been deported or are awaiting deportation, an immigration official told AFP.
The US Embassy in Bangkok has declined to comment on the case.