The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked the Ministry of Justice to review Moscow’s request to extradite fugitive Russian tycoon Sergei Polonsky ahead of an upcoming trip by the Kingdom’s leaders to Russia.
The request, dated April 20, calls on the Ministry of Justice to examine Polonsky’s case in light of a new extradition request by the Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh.
The letter also notes an upcoming visit by Prime Minister Hun Sen, Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Foreign Minster Hor Namhong to Russia, although it does not give a date for the visit.
It also references the two countries’ relationship following a visit by Hor Namhong to Moscow in March, during which he discussed inking an extradition treaty with Russian counterparts.
Further, the document states that Interpol has also requested the fugitive be sent to Russia, where he is wanted for alleged massive fraud and embezzlement.
Speaking yesterday, Chin Malin, Justice Ministry spokesman said: “The negotiation on the extradition agreement with Russia is still going on and will finish soon.”
“There are lots of issues to be discussed and agreed upon,” he added.
Polonsky, reportedly once one of the richest men in his native country, has been living on his own private island off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province.
Last April, Cambodia’s Supreme Court dismissed a request to extradite Polonsky due to the lack of an extradition treaty between the countries.
In March, after meeting Hor Namhong, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said an agreement on a treaty was “in a high degree of readiness”.
Cambodia has since established a task force to make the arrangements.
Minister of Interior Sar Kheng confirmed during a press conference on Monday that the Foreign and Justice ministries were working on the matter, but did not know the details.
Responding yesterday, Polonsky’s lawyer, Benson Samay, said he wasn’t aware of the Foreign Ministry’s recent push but called it “ridiculous”.
“They cannot extradite him, because we have a dismissal already,” he said, adding Polonksy had “no criminal convictions”.
Polonsky, however, 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 is alleged to have threatened six boatmen with a knife and forced them to jump overboard near his private island, Koh Dek Koul.
He has also been embroiled in a long-running and bitter dispute with his former business partner Nikolai Doroshenko, a long-time Russian expatriate in Cambodia, centring on the ownership of properties in the Sihanoukville area.
Most recently, Doroshenko’s son, Ostap, accused Polonksy of paying $200,000 in bribes to keep his father in jail. Nikolai Doroshenko was detained in March in connection with one of Polonsky’s complaints.
In addition to Polonsky, an extradition treaty between Russia and Cambodia would pave the way for other wanted Russians in the Kingdom.
Cambodian police are still searching for Russian national Oleg Tikhanov, who is wanted in Russia on weapons and explosives charges connected to organised crime, according to an Interpol red notice.
Tikhanov, who owns a hotel, kindergarten and bar, is the employer of several men involved in a vicious brawl at the Queenco Hotel in Sihanoukville in February connected with the scrapped kaZantip music festival.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHAUN TURTON