PATTAYA, Thailand (AP) — A model from Belarus who claimed last year that she had evidence of Russian involvement in helping elect Donald Trump president pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Thai court in a case related to holding a sex training seminar and will be deported.
A lawyer representing Vashukevich said she and seven co-defendants were given suspended 18-month prison terms and fines of 100,000 baht ($3,135), waived in view of nine months already served since the charges of soliciting and conspiracy were filed against them. All were arrested in February last year at a hotel in the seaside resort town of Pattaya, where Vashukevich and Russian self-styled sex guru Alexander Kirillov, a co-defendant, were giving a class in sexual relationships — fully clothed, at least when police and reporters burst in.
They were initially sentenced Tuesday by the court in Pattaya to three-year prison terms, but their sentences were halved because they pleaded guilty, a standard procedure in Thai trials. The soliciting charge carried a maximum prison term of 10 years, and conspiracy a maximum penalty of seven years.
The lawyer, who asked not to be identified because he feared he might be breaching court rules, said the group would be freed Tuesday night and deported afterward.
Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, drew international interest last year by claiming to have recordings of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska talking about interference in the 2016 U.S. election but did not make them public.
Deripaska is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and also had a working relationship with Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager who was investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller and convicted last year of tax and bank fraud.
In the early stages of their detention, the sex training group sent a note to the U.S. Embassy via an intermediary seeking help and political asylum. Vashukevich indicated she would turn over the recordings she claimed to have if the U.S. could help secure her release, but later withdrew the offer, suggesting that she and Deripaska had reached an agreement.
Vashukevich's earlier revelation of an alleged affair with Deripaska fueled opposition allegations in Russia of official corruption and enraged the Kremlin. A public scandal erupted in early February last year when Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny published an investigation drawing on her social media posts suggesting corrupt links between Deripaska and a top Kremlin official, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko.
The report featured photos from Deripaska's yacht in 2016, when Vashukevich claimed she was having an affair with him and recorded him.
Thai Immigration Police Chief Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said his office would take custody of the group after they were released by the court in Pattaya and put their names on a blacklist barring them from returning to Thailand.
"Once we've received them, tomorrow I will contact the Russian ambassador in Thailand to arrange a date for it to take them in and buy a plane ticket," he said by phone. He said he expected to deport them by the end of next week.