Russia and Cambodia are in the final stages of drafting an extradition treaty that would clear the way for Moscow to have fugitive developer Sergei Polonsky sent home to face multimillion-dollar embezzlement charges, Russian media reported Wednesday.
Once one of the richest men in Russia, Mr. Polonsky, 42, was charged by the Russian Interior Ministry in July 2013 with embezzling millions of dollars from investors in a pair of Moscow residential developments and subsequently placed on Interpol’s list of most-wanted persons.
Now living on a tiny island off the coast of Sihanoukville as he pumps millions into an ambitious tourism development on an archipelago further offshore, the eccentric former billionaire has been embroiled in a series of other legal and criminal cases both in Cambodia and Russia—even spending two stints in Cambodian prison—but has so far managed to avoid extradition.
Both the Appeal Court and Supreme Court have turned down requests from Moscow to have him sent home to stand trial.
On Wednesday, however, Russian state news agency Sputnik reported that Cambodian Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss an extradition treaty between the two countries that “is ready for the most part.”
“An extradition treaty, enabling Cambodia to return fugitive tycoon Sergei Polonsky to Russia, is currently being prepared,” the article says, citing a speech made by Mr. Lavrov after the meeting.
“A final meeting of experts has been scheduled to take place this month, after that we will be able to launch domestic procedures for its signing,” it quotes the Russian foreign minister as saying.
The article also says that Cambodia is considering yet another request from Russia for Mr. Polonsky’s extradition.
The Russian Legal Information Agency (Rapsi) also reported Wednesday that an extradition treaty was in the works and that Mr. Namhong would, separately, consider the most recent extradition request.
“[C]urrently we assume that the document will be signed,” Rapsi quotes Mr. Namhong as saying.
“[W]e will consider Russia’s request to extradite this individual,” Mr. Namhong continues. “I will discuss this issue with the government after I return to Cambodia.”
Koy Kuong, spokesman for Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, confirmed that Cambodian and Russian officials talked about an extradition treaty, but said nothing had been put on paper.
“So far, we have a brief discussion about that,” Mr. Kuong said. “[W]e are talking about the drafting of the extradition treaty.”
Mr. Polonsky was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening, but his lawyer, Kaspars Cekotins, said he believed an extradition treaty would not be retroactive, and therefore would not affect his client unless new charges were brought against him.
“The [Cambodian] Supreme Court has already made a judgment on the extradition and even if…an agreement between both countries is signed, it’s going to work from that date on,” he said.
“That probably means that there has to be a new case because this one has already been decided.”
Clarification: A previous version of this story stated that Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong confirmed that Hor Namhong and Sergei Lavrov talked about an extradition treaty. Mr. Kuong has since clarified that he knew only that the treaty was discussed by the two sides.