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.