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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tycoon still sits in Sihanoukville jail

Tycoon still sits in Sihanoukville jail

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Russian real-estate tycoon Sergei Polonsky (C) was among three men arrested on Sunday in Sihanoukville. Photograph supplied

Russian real-estate tycoon Sergei Polonsky (C) was among three men arrested on Sunday in Sihanoukville. Photograph supplied

Russian tycoon Sergei Polonsky, accused last week of threatening boatmen with a knife and ordering them overboard, remained locked in jail in Sihanoukville yesterday, despite claims he had already walked free, a prison official said.

Tan Nareth, deputy director of Preah Sihanouk provincial prison, told the Post Polonsky, 40, had been remanded in pre-trial detention on charges of intentional violence and illegal detention following his arrest last Sunday.

Two fellow Russians, identified only as Karachinsky, 24, and Baglay, 25, had been charged with the lesser crime of conspiring to detain illegally. “They are looking for a Cambodian lawyer to represent them,” Nareth said.

He added that officials from the Russian embassy in Phnom Penh and a legal representative had visited the men for about 30 minutes on Friday.

Polonsky, the well-known former owner of the collapsed property group Mirax, was arrested off Sihanoukville after allegedly threatening the crew of a hire boat with a knife, locking one of them in a bathroom and ordering them to jump overboard on December 29.

“He used a knife to threaten me and kept me in the bathroom,” one of the boatmen told police, according to a document obtained by the Post on Thursday.

The crew of six also claimed Polonsky, who has business interests in Sihanoukville, had ordered some of them to jump from the boat.

In contrast, a statement issued on Friday, purportedly by the “Polonium Foundation”, said Polonsky had already walked free after some confusion.

“Mr Polonsky has been released on bail following the misunderstanding and is now working with Cambodian authorities and legal representatives to resolve the situation,” the statement says.

The “misunderstanding” occurred when Polonsky and his friends, who had been partying with fireworks, had attracted the attention of officers at a nearby military base, it adds.

“After officers asked the group for identification, Mr Polonsky offered to retrieve the relevant documents from his private island nearby; however, his request was refused.”

A language barrier had led to “some tension” as the three men were taken to the military base, the statement says.

News of Polonsky’s arrest reverberated in his native Russia as well as in England, where he is known for being punched on live television in 2011 by Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted a representative of Polonsky’s Potok company on Friday saying the businessmen faced hooliganism charges but had been released after pledging not to leave Sihanoukville.

Other news outlets reported that a statement had appeared on Polonsky’s blog in which he spoke of his release. The post was not visible yesterday.

Provincial deputy prosecutor Huot Vicheth and investigating judge Sar Lina could not be reached yesterday. The Russian embassy declined to comment.

Polonsky’s wealth was estimated at $1.2 billion in 2008, three years before the collapse of the Mirax Group.

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