Russian Tycoon Sergei Polonsky Deported

Cambodian authorities on Sunday deported Russian businessman and former billionaire Sergei Polonsky, who is wanted in Russia on multimillion-dollar embezzlement charges, for not holding a valid passport, officials said.

Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s general department of immigration, said Mr. Polonsky, who was arrested Friday along with five foreign associates, was handed over Sunday morning to a group of seven Russian officials, including one from Russia’s Interpol office.

Immigration police escort Sergei Polonsky in a shuttle bus at Phnom Penh International Airport on Sunday shortly before he was deported from Cambodia, in a photo provided by police.
Immigration police escort Sergei Polonsky in a shuttle bus at Phnom Penh International Airport on Sunday shortly before he was deported from Cambodia, in a photo provided by police.

“This morning, we deported him at about 6:40 a.m., and it is only Polonsky,” Major General Heisela said. “Polonsky was sent on an Angkor Air flight through to Ho Chi Minh [City] and then straight to Moscow.”

Police arrested Mr. Polonsky on Friday on Koh Damlong island—one of eight islands he owns off the coast of Sihanoukville—on charges of overstaying his visa.

Maj. Gen. Heisela said Sunday that his department later determined the visa was valid.

“We deported him because he has no passport,” Maj. Gen. Heisela said.

He added that police did not actually arrest Mr. Polonsky for not having a passport or visa, but because locals had complained he was responsible for causing unrest in Sihanoukville. According to Maj. Gen. Heisela, Mr. Polonsky had set up an illegal bodyguard unit, and police found weapons on his boat.

“The Cambodian government arrested Polonsky because he affected our national security, created bodyguards and has weapons,” he said.

The five other men detained with Mr. Polonsky—including one of his lawyers—were also arrested for not having passports and are being held at the immigration department in Phnom Penh, Maj. Gen. Heisela said.

He added that they would likely be deported later this week.

“We are waiting for the official letter from the Russian Embassy for deportation,” he said.

Benson Samay, one of Mr. Polonsky’s lawyers, said he was no longer being kept informed about the case.

“I know nothing about the case; they give me no information,” he said outside his Phnom Penh office Sunday.

Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Chuon Narin said Sunday that police arrested 15 of Mr. Polonsky’s employees—of Russian, Moldovian and Ukrainian nationality—Saturday night on Koh Damlong, also for not having passports. But 14 of them were released Sunday after they managed to produce the documents, he said.

“The 14 were released because they have passports, but only one of them, a Russian, is still detained while we wait for his friend to bring the passport,” he said.

Brigadier General Narin added that police were still investigating possible crimes committed by Mr. Polonsky and said the navy would patrol the area around Koh Damlong until the government decided what to do with the island.

Up until his arrest, Mr. Polonsky had pumped millions of dollars into developing his eight islands, which he had planned to turn into a $1 billion ecotourism destination, with initial construction concentrated on Koh Damlong.

Chin Malin, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, said the government had not yet decided what it would do with the island. “The government is looking at what the next plan is for Damlong, but that island needs something that will develop the country,” he said.

In July 2013, the Russian Interior Ministry charged Mr. Polonsky with embezzling millions of dollars from investors in two Moscow residential developments. He was subsequently placed on Interpol’s most-wanted list.

Although Moscow repeatedly asked Cambodia to extradite him, both the Appeal Court and Supreme Court in Cambodia turned down the requests. However, it emerged in March that Cambodia and Russia had begun drafting an official extradition treaty, which Russian news outlets reported was aimed at securing the return of Mr. Polonsky.

Mr. Malin said Sunday, however, that Mr. Polonsky’s deportation had nothing to do with the treaty. “He was deported because he does not have a legal passport,” he said.

In addition to fighting extradition, Mr. Polonsky has been involved in a number of other legal battles during his years in Cambodia.

In January 2013, he was jailed for allegedly forcing six Cambodians to jump off a boat at knifepoint. He has also been embroiled in a high-profile legal dispute with his former business partner, Nikolai Doroshenko, who was recently jailed himself for failing to appear in court for questioning over fraud allegations related to their dispute.

Mr. Malin said those cases would now be put on hold.

“We will do nothing with his cases, because he was returned to his country,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Chris Mueller)

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