Russian Jailed While Court Weighs Deportation

A wanted Russian embezzler who was arrested in Sihanoukville this week after eight years on the run is refusing to cooperate with police investigators and has been sent to Phnom Penh’s PJ Prison while authorities decide whether to deport him to his home country, officials said on Thursday.

Vladimir Batalin, 37, has been wanted in his home country since “cheating a company of money” in 2007 and 2008, according to a 2014 arrest warrant issued by the Appeal Court at the request of Russian authorities.

Vladimir Batalin, left, speaks on the telephone during an outing to Koh Rong island off the coast of Sihanoukville in October 2013. (Ben Woods/The Cambodia Daily)
Vladimir Batalin, left, speaks on the telephone during an outing to Koh Rong island off the coast of Sihanoukville in October 2013. (Ben Woods/The Cambodia Daily)

A former associate of wealthy Russian developer Sergei Polonsky—who was deported from Cambodia in May to face serious fraud charges—Mr. Batalin was arrested in Sihanoukville on Monday by local police acting on a request from the Interior Ministry’s anti-terrorism department.

He was transported to Phnom Penh on Tuesday evening and interrogated at length at the department’s headquarters on Wednesday, according to deputy department director Thou Saroeun.

But Mr. Batalin was tight-lipped under questioning, Major General Saroeun said, leaving Cambodian authorities with little understanding about the crimes he allegedly committed in Russia.

“He refused to answer all of our questions about the accusations,” he said. “We asked him for details about the case, but he claimed to have forgotten them,” he said, adding that Mr. Batalin also refused to thumb-print official documents.

On Tuesday, deputy Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Em Voleak said Mr. Batalin was similarly taciturn while being questioned by local officers the day before, saying only that he had been living in Phnom Penh for four years after arriving in the country sometime before that.

After Mr. Batalin’s latest bout of stubbornness, Maj. Gen. Saroeun said, he was sent to the minimum-security PJ Prison on the orders of the Appeal Court, which will decide his fate.

“Whether he will be extradited to Russia or not is up to the Appeal Court. They will consider it later,” he said.

According to a February 1 letter issued by the anti-terrorism department asking the Preah Sihanouk police to apprehend the Russian, Mr. Balatin’s case was brought to the department’s attention in July by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which had been in contact with the Russian Embassy about the matter.

Hean Rith, a deputy prosecutor general at the Appeal Court who issued the arrest warrant for Mr. Batalin in 2014, declined to comment on Thursday.

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