Fugitive Russian tycoon Sergei Polonsky could soon be back in Russia, after he was arrested in southern Cambodia yesterday for possessing an expired visa.
According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong, Polonsky was captured alongside five other foreign nationals and taken to Sihanoukville for processing by immigration officials.
“This arrest purely relates to implementing the law on immigration. As I know, those six people have lived with their expired visas. It’s just the same as if Vietnamese people live here illegally. We will deport them back to their home country,” he said on Friday.
While pointing specifically to the overstayed visas, the move follows a Ministry of Foreign Affairs request late last month asking the Ministry of Justice to examine Polonsky’s case in light of a fresh extradition request by the Russian Embassy. Kuong also denied an upcoming official visit by Prime Minister Hun Sen to Russia had influenced Polonsky’s capture.
There are conflicting accounts as to whether the arrest was made on Polonsky’s private yacht or on Koh Damlong – one of eight private islands off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province that Polonsky claims at least partial ownership of.
Pierre Kann, a Cambodian scuba diver and conservationist who oversaw part of Koh Damlong’s development, said a staffer on the island told him Polonsky was arrested on his yacht moored off the island. Polonsky’s Russian lawyer Slavik Brsoyan confirmed the same to Russian media.
Also among the six arrested was Kaspars Cekotins, one of Polonsky’s lawyers in Cambodia, according to his brother Edgars Cekotins, who was not present during the arrest.
“There just arrived like about three boats with policemen. It happened really fast. Some of the guys ran away, some of them [the police] took,” he said on Friday. “They took all the phones, all the Macs, PCs, everything”.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Polonsky’s former lawyer Alexander Dobrovinsky claimed the arrest was made at the request of the Russian government.
“The Investigation Department of the Interior Ministry, as far as I am aware, has just been informed by the Cambodian authorities that Mr Polonsky was arrested at the request of the Russian Federation,” he wrote.
In recent years, Russia has pressured the Cambodian government to arrest Polonsky and extradite him to face embezzlement charges related to a failed $167 million development project in Moscow. In November 2013, Polonsky was added to Interpol’s most wanted list for “large-scale fraud”.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Russian Interior Ministry said it was committed to bringing Polonsky to justice in Russia for alleged fraud, saying it was “using all possible forms of contacts with foreign colleagues”.
In April 2014, Cambodia’s Supreme Court dismissed a request to extradite Polonsky due to the lack of an extradition treaty between the countries, but negotiations have since been ongoing between the two nations, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying an agreement was “in a high degree of readiness” in early March.