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MOSCOW, February 6 (Itar-Tass) - The Federal Penitentiary Service /FSIN/ has not confirmed the reports that Poland is beginning the extradition of former first deputy prosecutor of Moscow region Alexander Ignatenko. "I haven't seen official documents. So far, I cannot officially confirm or deny anything," FSIN deputy director Nikolai Kolesnik said on Wednesday.
FSIN has no confirmation from Poland that Ignatenko's extradition has begun, he added. FSIN might join the process if so instructed by the Investigative Committee.
Kolesnik also said he had seen the reports claiming that "the former prosecutor is returned to the Motherland" before.
Earlier in the day, Ignatenko's lawyer Alexander Asnis said Poland would extradite Ignatenko, accused within the so-called "gambling case," on February 7. "It follows from the Investigative Committee's notification that Ignatenko's extradition is scheduled for February 7," he said.
The same document notifies Ignatenko's lawyers that charges against him will be officially brought on February 8 and that he will be questioned as a suspect. On Thursday, investigators plan to lodge a petition with the Moscow City Court to extend Ignatenko's custody.
Interpol issued a wanted notice for the former first deputy prosecutor of the Moscow region over charges of fraud and taking 47 million roubles in bribes from suspected masterminds of illegal gambling business in the Moscow region. On January 1, 2012, the former prosecutor was detained by Poland’s security agents as he was leaving the Zakopane resort where he had arrived several days before for reunion with his family. He spent a year in a Polish prison awaiting a ruling on his extradition.
In late October, 2012, Poland's justice minister said he had decided to extradite Ignatenko, but that the latter could only be tried on charges of corruption, and that Poland was not extraditing the suspect under the fraud charges.
Under international norms, the extraditing country can impose such restriction if it doubts the correctness of the charges against the suspect.
Alexander Ignatenko became the last suspect in the high-profile criminal case opened in 2011, accused of taking bribes in exchange for covering up illegal gambling business in the Moscow region.
In February 2011, the Federal Security Service reported that it had exposed an illegal gambling network in 15 towns of the region. It brought an estimated five to ten million dollars a year in revenue. The network had operated for some three years.
Law-enforcement bodies said Ivan Nazarov, together with Alla Guseva and Marat Mamyev, were the masterminds of the illegal business. Initially, they were charged with fraud, but later the charges were changed to illegal entrepreneurship. The suspects signed plea bargain agreements and were released on recognizance in June 2011.
Nazarov said there were 300 gaming clubs in the regions, including 15 he controlled personally. After the gambling ban, police suggested he pay them bribes. Nazarov said they had collected 80 percent /of earnings/ as bribes - prosecutors, police, etc, in order to turn a blind eye to the operation of gambling parlors.
At least 21 former law-enforcement officials were suspects. Bribery charges were brought against former head of the supervision department of the regional prosecutor's office Dmitry Urumov, former prosecutor of the town of Odintsovo Roman Nishchemenko and former prosecutor of the town of Serpukhov Oleg Bazylyan, head of the Interior Ministry's "K" department Farit Temirgaliyev and his deputy Mikhail Kulikov. Former Noginsk prosecutor Vladimir Glebov was accused of exceeding office powers.
Alexander Ignatenko and Eudard Kaplun were put on the wanted list. In August 2012, Kaplun turned himself in and was questioned as a suspect.
Ignatenko's return to his homeland might bring the finale of this high-profile story closer. "He is ready for return and is awaiting it," his Polish lawyer Marcin Lewczak said.
Meanwhile, the Polish Justice Ministry told Itar-Tass the extradition process had begun. Deputy Justice Minister Wojciech Wegrzyn said "Ignatenko left the prison in the town of Tarnow and was being convoyed to Warsaw."
"He will be handed over to the services which will complete the extradition process," Wegrzyn said without elaborating.
The ministry said the extradition would be completed on Thursday.
The district court in the town of Nowy Sacz postponed, to February 8, the review of the issue to extend Ignatenko's arrest. "The court has not received information about the date of the detainee's handover to Russia and does not want to issue a resolution on extending his arrest in Poland if he is handed over to Russia in the next few days. The court decided to wait for official confirmation of the media reports from the justice ministry. If the extradition does not take place by Friday, the court will have to make a decision, because formally, on February 9, Ignatenko might demand his release if his arrest has not been extended," Lewczak said.