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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

RUSSIA: Prosecutor vows to pursue extradition of media mogul Prosecutors vowed Wednesday that Vladimir Gusinsky would have to "run like a hare" to avoid extradition on new money-laundering charges, despite a Spanish court rejection of an earlier Russian extradition request. The Prosecutor General´s Office sent a new arrest warrant to Interpol on Sunday, charging the media mogul with laundering 2.8 billion rubles ($97 million). It summoned Gusinsky on Friday to present the new charges formally. "We want him to face a Russian court," Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov told reporters Wednesday. His office´s spokesperson, Leonid Troshin, said prosecutors weren´t expecting Gusinsky to show up on Friday, but voiced confidence that he would be extradited. "These are grave charges, and we have strong evidence," Troshin said. "No country welcomes money laundering, and Gusinsky will now have to run like a hare." Gusinsky flew to Israel on Tuesday on board a hired executive jet from the British colony of Gibraltar. "I´m here," he said shortly after arrival, but declined to give details of his plans in Israel and did not say how long he intended to stay. Gusinsky has Israeli and Russian citizenship. An Israeli Justice Ministry official said Israel and Russia were signatories to a pan-European agreement that made extradition possible. But Gusinsky´s Spanish lawyer, Domingo Plazas, said it would be "extremely difficult" for Gusinsky to be extradited to Russia from Israel, where immigrants from the former Soviet Union wield political clout. "If he is going to Israel, it is because he has full confidence in the Israeli government," Plazas said Tuesday. Plazas said there was no evidence supporting the new charge, calling it a maneuver aimed at restarting the earlier proceedings. Russia at first accused Gusinsky of misrepresenting the assets of his Media-MOST holding company to obtain a $262 million loan from Gazprom. But a Spanish court last week refused Russia´s request to extradite Gusinsky to face those charges, saying Russia´s grounds for the case would not amount to a crime in Spain. Troshin said it had taken a longer time for the prosecutors to prepare the money-laundering charges. "We were collecting evidence, and couldn´t do it faster," he said, refusing to give details. With interesting timing, the State Duma on Wednesday ratified a European Union convention that gives authorities more opportunities to battle money laundering and to seek the return of criminal assets that have been hidden abroad. Under the 1990 convention, which has been signed by more than 30 countries, Russia could ask other countries´ assistance in seeking punitive measures against citizens and companies that spirit illegal revenues out of the country. Russia signed the document in May 1999. The vote to ratify was 375-1 with one abstention. Ustinov told the deputies that his office intended to target illegal privatizations of state companies, Interfax reported. St. Petersberg Times, April 27,2001

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