Russia seeks tycoon’s extradition

After a month’s delay, authorities in Moscow have sent a formal request to Greece for the extradition of fugitive Russian multimillionaire Vladimir Gusinsky, wanted in Russia for massive fraud and money laundering, the Greek Justice Ministry said yesterday. Gusinsky, 51, a former media tycoon in his native Russia, was arrested on August 21 at Athens Airport after flying in from Tel Aviv, on the strength of an outstanding international arrest warrant, and taken into custody. A few days later, he was released on bail of 100,000 euros and forbidden to leave the country until the murky question of his possible extradition was settled. The businessman, an Israeli passport holder and vice chairman of the World Jewish Congress, claims the $250 million fraud and the money-laundering charges against him are politically motivated, arguing that senior Kremlin figures were angered by the critical fashion in which his NTV television network covered Russia’s Chechen war. In this, he has been backed by the USA and Israel – as well as Russian human rights activists – with Washington and Tel Aviv pressing Athens not to allow his extradition. Greek government sources have said that Moscow might be unwilling to go all the way to get back Gusinsky – who has media holdings in the USA and Israel. Following its receipt on Friday, the formal request will be forwarded to the department of appeals court prosecutors and by next Monday a date is expected to have been set for its discussion by the three-member Council of Appeals Court Judges. Should an appeal be lodged against the council’s findings, the Supreme Court ought to have provided a ruling within three months of the appeal. But the final decision will rest with Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos.

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