Russia Asks Israel to Extradite Billionaire Over Fraud Claims

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Russian law enforcement officials on Friday sought the arrest of real estate businessman Sergei Polonsky, believed to be in Israel, to face trial over fraud charges.

Russia’s Interior Ministry asked a court to put Polonsky under arrest in absentia and requested that a procedure to extradite him should begin, a statement posted on the ministry's website said on Friday.

Polonsky, worth $1.2 billion before the global financial crisis, was at the center of the recent case against media magnate Alexander Lebedev, who was charged for throwing a punch at Polonsky on a television show. The case saw Lebedev avoid a jail sentence but be ordered to do 150 hours of community service. Lebedev is the owner of the U.K.’s Independent and Evening Standard newspapers.

According to an Interior Ministry press release in June, Polonsky was charged in absentia with fraud relating to a property firm he founded, which is accused of stealing more than 5.7 billion rubles ($172 million) from people who had prepaid for apartments in a residential housing complex it was building.

"The investigative department of the Interior Ministry of Russia initiated a petition before the court in respect of ... Sergei Polonsky, who is accused of committing ... fraud ... to detain him, in absentia," the statement said. "If the court approves the investigator's request, the process will start to extradite Polonsky to Russia."

Polonsky has a visa to stay in Israel until Sept. 27, the statement said, citing Israeli law enforcement authorities. This year, Polonsky was detained in Cambodia and accused of assault and illegal detention after an incident on a boat, according to authorities in the country at the time. He was later freed. A statement on a Facebook account, which appears to be Sergei Polonsky's press office, said Polonsky insisted on an objective investigation and is ready to cooperate with investigators, the statement said.

Sergei Polonsky in Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 29, 2009.Credit: Bloomberg

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