A Russian fugitive and former associate of jailed oligarch Sergei Polonsky has been arrested in Sihanoukville and will be questioned by the Interior Ministry’s anti-terrorism department today after nearly a decade on the run, officials said on Tuesday.
Vladimir Batalin, 37, has been wanted by Russian authorities since “cheating a company of money” in 2007 and 2008, according to an arrest warrant issued by the Appeal Court in July 2014.
The warrant, signed by deputy prosecutor Hean Rith and dated July 18, states that the Appeal Court was instructed to order the arrest of Mr. Batalin by the Justice Ministry, in response to a request from Russian authorities. It does not say how much money Mr. Batalin is alleged to have stolen or from which company.
Kol Phally, deputy police chief of Preah Sihanouk province, said Mr. Batalin was arrested while riding alone in a taxi on Kamakor Street in Sihanoukville’s Bei commune at about 1 p.m. on Monday, when local police recognized him from a photograph.
“We arrested him yesterday in Bei commune and sent him to be questioned at the provincial police headquarters,” Mr. Phally said. He referred further questions to Em Voleak, another deputy provincial police chief who is in charge of the case.
Mr. Voleak said the suspect was arrested after officials at the Interior Ministry’s anti-terrorism department informed him that Mr. Batalin arrived in Sihanoukville last week.
“We have been trying to find him for a long time,” he said. “We arrested him on the orders of the upper level, which said he was involved in cheating a lot of money from his own country.”
Under questioning on Monday, Mr. Batalin told police that he could not remember exactly when he arrived in Cambodia but that he had been living in Phnom Penh for the past four years and visited Sihanoukville frequently, Mr. Voleak said.
“When we asked him what his job was, he said, ‘I have no job and just came here as a tourist,’” he added.
In fact, Mr. Batalin was often seen in the company of Mr. Polonsky, a Russian billionaire who was deported from Cambodia to Russia in May and jailed on serious fraud charges. For years, Mr. Polonsky lived in luxury on a private island off the coast of Sihanoukville while avoiding prosecution in his home country and enjoying scant scrutiny—and even protection—from Cambodian authorities.
Y Sok Khy, director of the anti-terrorism department, confirmed that his department was leading the investigation into Mr. Batalin but said he did not know whether he would be deported to Russia. He said the suspect was en route to Phnom Penh as of last night and would be questioned by officials today.
Officials at the Appeal Court could not be reached on Tuesday. The Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to a request for comment.