Two days before his arrest on Monday at the request of authorities in Moscow, Sergei Polonsky posted a video to his Facebook page, which his lawyer claimed to Russian media shows a Cambodian government official attempting to extort $1 million from the former oligarch in exchange for keeping him out of prison.
Mr. Polonsky, once one of the richest men in Russia, was charged in absentia by a Moscow court in July with embezzling $176 million from investors in an unfinished residential development.
In an eight-minute video posted to Facebook on November 9, Mr. Polonsky and his Russian lawyer, Alexander Karabonov, are shown on the phone with a person they claim is a Cambodian official, trying to reach a last-minute deal to avert the oligarch’s arrest.
“As Sergei Polonsky told you, he has no cash at the moment. Could we consider other options?” Mr. Karabanov says in Russian at the start of the video, which appears to have been recorded inside Mr. Polonksy’s house on Koh Dek Kuol, his private island off the coast of Sihanoukville.
“The terms and conditions were discussed…. If you are not able to fulfill these conditions, we shouldn’t contact each other anymore and waste our time,” says the caller on the other end of the line, who is not a native Russian speaker.
The caller, whose name and rank are clearly audible in the conversation with Mr. Polonsky and his lawyer, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
As Mr. Karabanov and the caller continue their negotiation, Mr. Polonsky paces in the background, wearing only a towel around his waist, finally interjecting: “We can’t find the money right now.”
“We’ll need more time to get the money from Moscow. Maybe we could use other forms of payment and terms? For instance, could we pledge property as collateral?” Mr. Karabanov asks in the video footage.
The caller rejects this offer: “No, we are not ready to consider that option…. Tell me how much time you need—one or two days? But tell me exactly; don’t play with me. I warn you that I’m not joking.”
Finally, a visibly agitated Mr. Polonsky sits down and takes over the conversation altogether.
“General, look, I already agreed yesterday to pay $1 million…and I told you I don’t have the cash, because all active assets were arrested…. I told you that I can pay by pledging the island or my Rolls-Royce, but I have no cold, hard cash,” Mr. Polonsky tells the caller.
“I will pay $1 million. I stick to my word. Please think about that. We had an agreement, shook hands…. Think about it. I’ll call you in 30 minutes. Thank you,” Mr. Polonsky adds, at which point the video ends.
On Monday, Mr. Polonsky was arrested on Koh Rong, near Koh Dek Kuol, and sent to Phnom Penh’s PJ Prison, where he is currently awaiting extradition to Russia.
Neither Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak nor National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Kirth Chantharith could be reached for comment Thursday on the alleged extortion attempt.
Ros Sitha, Mr. Polonsky’s Cambodian lawyer, declined to comment on the content of the video saying he feared personal retribution.
(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith and Khy Sovuthy)