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MOSCOW, January 17. /ITAR-TASS/. Fugitive Russian real estate tycoon Sergei Polonsky is in Cambodia on a written pledge not to leave the country, but he may be extradited to Russia later, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said Friday.
Polonsky is wanted in Russia on charges of embezzling funds in a large-scale residential project fraud scheme, but a Cambodian court postponed the consideration of Russia’s request for his extradition Monday pending a court ruling on charges brought against him by Cambodian authorities.
Cambodian prosecutors claim that on December 30, 2012, Polonsky and his friends, under the influence of alcohol, locked up a group of six sailors in the hold of a yacht on their way back from an island trip, threatened them with knives and then forced them to jump overboard.
Later, the alleged victims withdrew their lawsuits in exchange for monetary compensation. However, under Cambodian laws, a lawsuit cannot be terminated automatically. Only a court can drop the charges against Polonsky.
“The request of the Russian Federation’s Prosecutor General’s Office on Polonsky’s extradition has been ruled legal,” the Office said in a statement.
“However, taking into account that Polonsky is accused of committing crimes on Cambodian territory against its nationals, his extradition to Russia has been postponed pending a ruling by the court of the Preah Sihanouk [Sihanoukville] province on that criminal case,” it said.
“Russian laws also contain norms similar to those that the [Cambodian] court was guided by when making the ruling,” the Office said. “The court also granted Polonsky’s request to release him from custody under recognizance not to leave the country.”
According to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, Polonsky’s lawyers asked an appeals court in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to refuse to extradite him to Russia, but a spokesman for Cambodian prosecutors said the actions Polonsky is accused of in Russia are also considered a crime in line with Cambodia’s Criminal Code.
Earlier, Polonsky’s lawyer Alexander Karabanov told journalists that Cambodia refused to extradite his client to Russia because in line with Cambodian laws, his actions in Russia constituted a subject of a civil dispute rather than a crime. But Russian prosecutors denied media claims that Cambodia decided not to extradite Polonsky and drop charges against him.
Polonsky is suspected of embezzling 5.7 billion roubles ($171 million at current rates) from 80 investors of the Kutuzovskaya Milya housing project in the Russian capital Moscow.
Investigators say the company controlled by Polonsky received the funds from the investors but then froze the construction without meeting its contractual commitments. The company’s management then initiated bankruptcy and liquidation procedures.
Last October, Interpol put Polonsky on a wanted list after Russia issued an international arrest warrant for the businessman. The Russian side sent an official extradition request to Cambodia.