Sergei Polonsky Awaits Extradition in Phnom Penh Prison

Following his dramatic arrest on Koh Rong off the coast of Sihanoukville on Monday, wanted Russian oligarch Sergei Polonsky was on Tuesday transported to Phnom Penh’s PJ Prison to await extradition to Moscow, where he will stand trial on multimillion-dollar embezzlement charges.

Mr. Polonsky, 41, who was last week added to Interpol’s list of most-wanted criminals for “large scale fraud,” was arrested on Koh Rong shortly before noon after evading capture for several hours with the help of several companions. He was transported to Phnom Penh on Monday evening and held at the Interior Ministry overnight.

Russian oligarch Sergei Polonsky makes a phone call inside a police van on his way to PJ Prison in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Ben Woods/The Cambodia Daily)
Russian oligarch Sergei Polonsky makes a phone call inside a police van on his way to PJ Prison in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Ben Woods/The Cambodia Daily)

“Police will send him to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and then detain him temporarily at PJ Prison before he is extradited to Russia,” said Deputy National Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Sok Phal.

“The government will issue a sub-decree to extradite him to Russia soon,” he added, without giving an exact date.

Mr. Polonsky’s lawyer, Ros Sitha, admitted that he was powerless to prevent his client’s extradition. “I cannot help him,” Mr. Sitha said.

“My client’s arrest is related to Russian businessmen who have accused him of fraud…and a warrant [was] issued by the Moscow court and sent to Interpol and Cambodian police,” he said.

Mr. Polonsky—who has been living on Koh Dek Kuol, a tiny private island off the coast of Sihanoukville—was charged in absentia in July of embezzling $176 million from about 80 investors in an unfinished Moscow residential development called the Kutuzovskaya Mile.

Mr. Polonsky has repeatedly said that former partners of his Mirax Group real estate firm, since renamed Potok, are responsible for his current legal predicament, as well as the loss of his fortune. In 2008, Forbes Magazine estimated Mr. Polonsky’s wealth at $1.2 billion.

At about 4 p.m. Tuesday, a handcuffed and sullen Mr. Polonsky arrived by police van at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where he was granted a brief audience with his lawyer, Mr. Sitha. Mr. Polonsky asked Mr. Sitha to contact the Russian Embassy, keep an eye on Koh Dek Kuol and bring him food while incarcerated. Asked by a reporter what he hoped to achieve by fleeing from police on Monday, Mr. Polonsky shook his head.

“I don’t know,” he said, “I don’t know.”

Mr. Polonsky said there was still hope he might find justice in Russia, so long as he receives a fair trial.

“I believe [I will] win, and I am waiting for a true court [trial].”

Hou Puthvisal, director of PJ Prison, confirmed that Mr. Polonsky arrived at the facility at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

A representative of the Russian Embassy declined to comment.

Perhaps best known for being punched by fellow oligarch and former KGB operative Alexander Lebedev during a televised debate about the financial crisis in 2011, news of Mr. Polonsky’s arrest on Monday has been widely reported by the international media, though details of his ill-fated escape attempt on Koh Rong varied significantly.

The Independent, a British newspaper, reported that Mr. Polonsky was captured during a “beach-front raid on an island he owns,” while the website of Russian TV channel Rossiya 24 stated that police fired shots during the operation.

According to London’s The Telegraph, “police hunted Mr. Polonsky for hours after he swam to the mainland and hid in the jungle.”

Koh Rong is about 20 km from the coast of mainland Cambodia.

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