Polonsky Camp: Gov’t Violated Rights, Laws

A day after Russian businessman Sergei Polonsky was deported from Cambodia, the eccentric former billionaire’s family and friends on Monday publicly accused Cambodian authorities of acting “in breach of his human rights” and “against both Cambodian and international law.”

Mr. Polonksy was arrested on Friday along with five associates on Koh Damlong island, one of eight islands he owns off the coast of Sihanoukville, on charges of overstaying his visa. He was transported by helicopter to Phnom Penh that afternoon before being put on a flight to Moscow via Ho Chi Minh City.

A plane carrying Mr. Polonsky landed at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport late on Sunday, where his wife, Olga Deripasko, and lawyers Slavik Brsoyan and Sergei Vladi held a press conference, according to Ruptly, a Russian state-funded news agency.

Mr. Brsoyan told the gathered media that his client had not violated immigration law in Cambodia.

“Undoubtedly all actions in Cambodia were conducted against both Cambodian and international law,” the lawyer reportedly said.

Powerscourt Group, a London-based PR agency that represents Mr. Polonsky, released a statement Monday on behalf of his “friends and relatives.” It said the arrest and deportation of the Russian tycoon were “in breach of his human rights” and comprised an apparent “secret deal” between Cambodia and Russia.

“Even as part of a normal deportation process, the person being deported is given the opportunity to leave for another country. But Mr Polonsky was forced onto a plane bound for Russia, in the company of Russian police,” the statement says.

The statement from Powerscourt also said that an attorney representing Mr. Polonsky in Cambodia was “misled” by officials who assured him he would be given access to his client Monday, not warning him that the expulsion would take place Sunday.

Benson Samay, Mr. Polonsky’s Cambodian lawyer, could not be reached Monday. Mr. Samay said on Sunday that he was no longer being kept informed of the case.

Mr. Polonsky, who was charged by the Russian Interior Ministry in July 2013 with embezzling millions of dollars from investors in two property developments, was transported from the Moscow airport straight to prison, according to Russian state media.

His PR firm claimed in the statement that the allegations were false and politically motivated, saying that prosecutor Oleg Silchenko—who is on the U.S. “Magnitsky list” of individuals believed to be responsible for the death of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009—had waged a “long-running campaign of persecution” against Mr. Polonsky.

“In such a blatantly unfair process, Mr Polonsky’s chances of receiving a fair trial are remote,” the statement said.

Mr. Polonsky had previously avoided attempts to extradite him from Cambodia to Russia, with both the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court turning down extradition requests from Moscow. It emerged in March that the two countries had begun drafting an official extradition treaty, although a Justice Ministry spokesman said Friday that it had not yet been finalized and authorities have maintained that Mr. Polonsky was deported over immigration issues.

His wife, Ms. Deripasko, reportedly reiterated at the press conference on Sunday that her husband had a valid visa, despite the official claims to the contrary.

“This is absolute nonsense, as we extended our visas together in November,” she said, according to the Ruptly news agency. “Both he and I got annual Cambodian visas.”

Police said on Sunday that Mr. Polonsky was initially arrested based on complaints from locals that he was causing unrest in Sihanoukville, and that he had created an armed bodyguard unit. Despite initially saying that he did not have a valid visa, police said on Sunday that the Russian was deported for not having a passport.

Russian Internal Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Elena Alekseyeva told Reuters that her country arranged the deportation.

“The staff of the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry deported Mr. Polonsky to the territory of the Russian Federation and he will be prosecuted in accordance to Russian law,” she was quoted as saying.

Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Chuon Narin on Monday rejected the assertions that Cambodian police officials had acted improperly.

“The foreign lawyers, they said whatever they want, and foreign lawyers do not understand clearly about Cambodian law,” he said, adding that his forces were currently patrolling Mr. Polonsky’s Koh Dek Koul island to protect his property as the government decides what to do with it.

The businessman had invested millions of dollars into developing his islands and planned to turn them into a $1 billion ecotourism destination.

Preah Sihanouk governor Chhit Sokhon said another investor should be found to take over Mr. Polonsky’s islands, but that police and navy would continue to patrol the area until a new developer moved in. He added that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ Brigade 31 was currently “defending” some of the islands.

“All his islands, that he rented for investment, should have someone to take care of his property,” Mr. Sokhon said.

“This investment must be the decision of Mr. Sok Chenda from the Council for the Development of Cambodia [CDC]; we cannot answer, but now we need to protect it while the owner is not in the country,” he said.

Mr. Chenda, secretary-general of the CDC, said he did not know anything about the case.

Also arrested with Mr. Polonsky on Friday were five of his foreign associates.

Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s general department of immigration, said the associates—whom he declined to identify—would likely be deported this week.

“They are being detained at the general immigration department, and they might be deported tomorrow or the next day,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Holly Robertson)

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