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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Treaty to extradite to Russia mooted

Sergei Polonsky looks out to sea from his yacht near his private island, Koh Dek Koul.
Sergei Polonsky looks out to sea from his yacht near his private island, Koh Dek Koul. Daniel Quinlan

Treaty to extradite to Russia mooted

Cambodia and Russia may soon ink an extradition treaty that could pave the way for fugitive tycoon Sergei Polonsky, and potentially other countrymen, to be deported home to face criminal charges.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that an agreement between the two countries was at a “high degree of readiness” following a meeting in Moscow yesterday with his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, Russian media reported.

“We are strengthening now the legal framework between Russia and the Kingdom of Cambodia with regard to the interaction between law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Commenting specifically on the prospect of Polonsky’s extradition yesterday, Lavrov said that a final meeting of experts would occur this month before “domestic procedures” could be launched for its signing.

But Namhong, responding to questions from Russian reporters, said Cambodia was merely “exploring the possibility of signing such an agreement”.

“The [authorities] will look at it all. We will seriously think over the request of the Russian Federation to extradite this citizen. When I return to Cambodia, I will discuss this question with the government, my colleagues, the prime minister of Cambodia. We will discuss the possibilities of solving this problem,” he said, according to a Russian translation of his comments.

Russia has for years been seeking the extradition of Polonsky, reportedly at one time one of the richest people in his country, who is wanted for alleged massive fraud and embezzlement there.

Last April, the Supreme Court ruled that Cambodia would not extradite the private island owner due to the lack of a formal treaty with Russia.

Polonsky could not be reached for comment yesterday. Kaspars Cekotins, one of his lawyers, said he was on a fishing trip far from the coast.

But Benson Samay, his Cambodian lawyer, claimed that even if an extradition treaty were signed, his extradition would be “impossible”.

“Before, the other case, it didn’t work,” he said.

“It’s too late. It’s retroactive. [You] request one time, you cannot request a second time.… The case doesn’t apply, it’s not applicable.”

Ilya Rosenfeld, Polonsky’s spokesperson in Russia, declined to comment.

Cambodian Interpol office chief Lim Sokha Raksmey said he had not received any recent request for Polonsky’s extradition. It is understood that Russia will make another request if a treaty is signed.

The announcement of a possible extradition treaty comes days after the Post revealed that Oleg Tikhanov, another fugitive living in Sihanoukville, is wanted by Interpol at Russia’s request. He faces serious charges including “illegal possession of explosives” linked to organised crime.

The Cambodian Interpol office has said it recognises he is “quite a dangerous person” and is investigating.

Employees of Tikhanov, who owns a bar, hotel and kindergarten in the beach town, are believed to have been involved in a vicious brawl last month that left a man in hospital with stab wounds, although Tikhanov claimed they were attacked first.

Polonsky, a controversial and media-savvy figure who has previously said he wants to live in Cambodia for the rest of his life, still faces local charges of intentional violence and illegal detention related to an allegedly violent altercation with a local boat crew in late 2012.

He allegedly threatened six boatmen with a knife and forced them to jump overboard near his private island in Sihanoukville.

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