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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Polonsky out, but on short leash

Polonsky out, but on short leash

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Russian tycoon Sergei Polonsky is taken into custody by Cambodian police on December 30 following an incident in which he allegedly forced men to jump overboard from his boat at knifepoint. Photograph: AFP

Russian tycoon Sergei Polonsky was released on bail from Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison yesterday, under heavy monitoring conditions, about  three months after his arrest for allegedly holding a boat crew captive at knifepoint and forcing them to jump ship.

Deputy prison director Tan Nareth  said Polonsky left the facility yesterday morning following the order from the investigating judge, Sar Lina.

“He cannot leave Cambodia and will have to show up at any time that he is summoned by the court,” added Nareth.

Polonsky, 40, a co-owner of Koh Dek Koul Island, located off the coast of Sihanoukville, was charged with intentional violence and the illegal detention of six boatmen in late December. He and two other men, who were released on bail three weeks ago, stand accused of threatening a member of their privately hired crew with a knife and locking him in a room, before forcing the crew off the boat during a trip from Koh Rong.

The three have maintained their innocence, and Polonsky has said in statements that the arrest was due to a misunderstanding over fireworks.

Alexander Dobrovinsky, Polonsky’s Moscow-based lawyer, told a Russian radio station that he was released on $50,000 bail. His Cambodian lawyer, Kong Rady, however, denied that account, telling the Post that because his client was discharged under strictly imposed monitoring conditions, no bond was deposited.  

Rady also said his client planned to continue his real estate work in Cambodia.

On March 14, Polonsky’s alleged co-conspirators, Konstantin Baglai and Alexander Karachinsky, both 25, were released on bail. In a Twitter message, Karachinsky alleged that he’d been asked to pay a $300,000 bribe to secure his release – a claim denied by prison officials.

Shortly after his arrest, the boatmen dropped the charges in exchange for $20,000 in compensation. But requests for bail dragged out for months, and Polonsky’s defence team sought increasingly high-level intervention both here and in Russia.

On March 29, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng signed off on a request filed by Rady asking that Polonsky be allowed to seek medical treatment outside the prison. At Polonsky’s request, meanwhile, a Russian lawmaker personally wrote the Cambodian government seeking his release, according to the state-owned Russian International News Agency. His release comes just one day after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding  aimed at boosting bilateral trade.

Requests for comment to the Russian Embassy went unanswered, while officials at the Ministry of Justice declined to comment on the of intervention.

Outside Russia, the tycoon is perhaps best known for an incident in 2011 in which Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev punched him during a television talk show, causing him to tumble backward off the stage.

His case has garnered intense media attention in Russia, where the businessman was a notorious figure and worth more than $1 billion before the collapse of his real estate company, Mirax Group, in 2011.

On a Facebook page set up by supporters, a handful of fans cheered his release, calling it long overdue.

“Congratulations on the release order! Hope the trial continues!” wrote Oleg Belyaev.

A hearing date has not yet been set and the investigation remains ongoing.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY REUTERS

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