Russian fugitive Vladimir Batalin will be deported to his home country to face charges of defrauding a Russian provincial government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday.
The 37-year-old, who was arrested in Sihanoukville in March at the request of the Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh, will appeal the decision, his lawyer, Um Bunthoeun, said after the ruling was handed down in a closed-door hearing.
“We will appeal this decision today. I will file the papers at the Supreme Court this afternoon,” Mr. Bunthoeun said outside the courtroom.
He said the judges had ruled that because Mr. Batalin did not have permanent residency in Cambodia, nor any clear business in the country, the request by Russian authorities for his deportation was “reasonable.”
Presiding Judge Van Vibol confirmed the ruling but declined to comment further.
Mr. Batalin, who was frequently seen in the presence of his compatriot Sergei Polonsky before the oligarch was deported last year to face serious fraud charges in Russia, has been reluctant to provide details about his business in Cambodia.
With a despondent Mr. Batalin refusing to answer questions outside of the courtroom, Mr. Bunthoeun explained that his client had run a company linking Thai and Chinese businessmen to tourism, hotel and casino developments in Cambodia.
“We are very surprised by the verdict,” Mr. Bunthoeun said. “In the more than five years he was in Cambodia, he didn’t commit any crimes, and he is innocent of the charge in Russia.”
According to Russian news website Amur.info, Mr. Batalin was charged in June 2008 with “swindling on an especially large scale,” and is accused of overcharging the housing trusts in 20 districts in Amur province by about $925,000, from sales of coal and oil for winter heating by a state fuel company in which he was a part owner.
However, in a statement given to the judges at his deportation hearing last week, Mr. Bunthoeun said Mr. Batalin was charged with defrauding the districts of only $230,000, a figure he described as a “small amount.” He insisted that charges against his client were linked to a political power play over the removal of the former provincial governor following the 2008 presidential elections.
Cambodia does not currently have an extradition treaty with Russia, but the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on extradition during a visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Hun Sen this week.