By Wilawan Watcharasakwet
A self-described Belarusian sex coach pleaded not guilty in a Thai court on Monday to charges of soliciting prostitution and conspiracy to form a criminal syndicate that could land her a maximum of 17 years in prison.
The case of Anastasia Vashukevich attracted widespread media attention six months ago when Thai police arrested her and nine other foreigners during a raid on their sex-training course in Pattaya, south of Bangkok. Two were deported.
“They pleaded not guilty and are ready to defend themselves against the charges,” Worasit Piriyawiboon, a lawyer with knowledge of the case, told BenarNews.
“They originally intended to plead guilty to lesser jail terms, but they made a last-minute about face, pleading innocent to fight the case,” Worasit said, adding that Vashukevich and co-detainee Aleksandr Kirillov had hired a new lawyer who agreed with their decision. BenarNews was unable to contact the lawyer.
A Pattaya provincial court judge declared that if the seminar had included people having sexual intercourse or arranged for people to have sex, it would be considered illegal by Thai law even if there was mutual consent. Lawyers will submit legal submissions at another hearing on Aug. 27, when the court is expected to set a date for testimony to begin, according to the Associated Press.
Kirillov, the organizer of the seminar, told the judge that the course was about the art of seduction and how to impress men and women, and it did not involve sexual activity.
When prosecutors showed a photo of students having sexual intercourse, Vashukevich cried, Worasit said.
“Kirillov told the court that the photo was of a private activity that happened in a private room and it was taken after the seminar,” Worasit said.
In February, police arrested and charged the 10 suspects with working without a permit and in early April charged them with soliciting prostitution and conspiracy to form a criminal syndicate. The charges charges carry a combined maximum prison term of 17 years, legal experts said.
Three of the 10 foreigners were found guilty of working illegally and were fined $100, police said. Two of the defendants have been deported, according to immigration officials, who declined to elaborate.
Vashukevich, who has written a book about seducing billionaires, catapulted to fame in early February after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny posted a 25-minute “investigative report” on YouTube.
The video, which relies on material from Vashukevich’s Instagram account, allegedly includes footage of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko, a longtime adviser to President Vladimir Putin, receiving lavish treatment on Deripaska’s yacht. Vashukevich and Kirillov could face a lawsuit in Russia over the video.
Vashukevich, whose social media name is Nastya Rybka, describes herself as a model and sex coach. She has posted racy photos of herself online, including a few showing her with Deripaska.