Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Polonsky trial date is set for early July

Polonsky trial date is set for early July

Sergei Polonsky and his wife talk to the press in Phnom Penh in April after a Supreme Court ruling
Sergei Polonsky and his wife talk to the press in Phnom Penh in April after a Supreme Court ruling. Heng Chivoan

Polonsky trial date is set for early July

He may have won his fight against extradition to his homeland, but Russian property tycoon Sergei Polonsky’s battle to remain a free man on Cambodian soil is not yet over.

A criminal case against the businessman will begin in Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court on July 4, officials said yesterday, though one prosecutor who spoke on condition of anonymity believes the tycoon’s freedom is all but guaranteed.

“He committed a minor crime, so the decision will be light for him,” the prosecutor said of the intentional violence and illegal detention charges faced by Polonsky.

“The judge will convict him with a suspended sentence or drop charges against him. [But] we will wait and see the decision.”

Polonsky, 41, is accused of threatening six boatmen with a knife, locking them in a bathroom and forcing them to jump overboard during a boat journey through waters off the coast of Sihanoukville in late 2012.

Polonsky’s lawyer, Benson Samay, was equally confident yesterday of a positive outcome for the tycoon – who is wanted in Russia on fraud charges related to a failed $176 million property development.

“His case will be fine,” Samay said, before hanging up.

The case against the businessman has been postponed twice already, first after a request for a delay from Polonsky’s lawyer, and a second time when the court assigned a new judge to oversee proceedings.

Polonsky owns and lives on Koh Dek Koul, an island off Sihanoukville.

A billionaire before the global financial crisis, according to Forbes magazine, Polonsky has promised to invest millions of dollars in development and tourism projects in the area.

Despite the boatmen withdrawing their complaints weeks after the alleged violence in exchange for a combined $20,000, Polonsky and fellow Russians Konstantin Baglay and Alexander Karachinsky spent several months in prison in early 2013 following their arrest at sea.

Polonsky, who did not respond to a request for comment yesterday, was first granted bail in April 2013 on the conditions that he stay in the country and report regularly to authorities.

Upon his release, however, he travelled to Israel, where he expressed an interest in gaining citizenship status.

He later returned to Cambodia, where he was dramatically arrested on Koh Rong in November after his details were posted on Interpol’s website and Russia issued a warrant for his arrest.

But Polonsky – who was once punched by a rival Russian billionaire during a live television forum – was released on bail again in January after the Court of Appeal decided to suspend his extradition.

Polonsky’s bid to remain in Cambodia was won on April 25 this year when the Supreme Court ruled that it could not extradite him because “Cambodia and Russia do not have an extradition agreement”.

Following the decision, Polonsky’s lawyer, Samay, said his client would continue to work on development projects in Sihanoukville, including on “many islands”.

“It’s difficult for Cambodia to find people like Polonsky, and Cambodia needs development, especially on the islands,” he said.

Following his first arrest, Polonsky wrote an open letter to King Norodom Sihamoni outlining plans for his multimillion-dollar developments.

During his time in Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison, Polonsky, the former owner of property firm Mirax, frequently used social media sites to garner public support for his release.

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,