Ministry Reviewing Russia Extradition Treaty

The Justice Ministry is reviewing a draft extradition treaty with Russia that could see fugitive businessman Sergei Polonsky deported to face multimillion-dollar embezzlement charges in his home country, a ministry spokesman said Monday.

Moscow has had requests to extradite the 42-year-old former billionaire denied by Cambodian courts, but following a meeting between Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow last month, Mr. Lavrov told reporters that the two countries were in the final stages of drawing up an extradition treaty.

“A final meeting of experts has been scheduled for this month and we hope that after this, intrastate procedures can be activated for signing [the treaty],” Mr. Lavrov said in response to a question about the likelihood of Mr. Polonsky being sent back to Russia to stand trial, according to a transcript of his remarks posted to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

Justice Ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap on Monday confirmed that a working group was currently reviewing the draft.

“We are reviewing the technical work and the legal procedures,” Mr. Santepheap said, adding that members of the working group were ironing out any discrepancies between Russian and Cambodian laws.

The spokesman declined to provide details on the contents of the treaty or say when it would be finalized.

Following the March 4 meeting between Mr. Namhong and Mr. Lavrov, Kaspars Cekotins, a lawyer for Mr. Polonsky, responded to those reports by saying that such a treaty would likely not be retroactive and therefore would not affect his client, noting that Moscow’s extradition requests had already been denied by the Appeal Court and Supreme Court.

Reached on Monday, Mr. Cekotins said this was still his opinion.

“I’ve heard that it is being prepared, but it won’t affect Mr. Polonsky because the Supreme Court has already made his decision,” he said of the treaty.

However, legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said that an extradition treaty would, in fact, be retroactive unless it contained a clause stating otherwise.

“If the treaty states clearly that it is not retroactive, then that concept would apply. If that is not written into the treaty, then an extradition treaty would be retroactive,” he said.

Mr. Santepheap, the Justice Ministry spokesman, said he was unsure if the draft at his office contained such a provision.

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