Will Russia get Gusinsky?
Patrick Lannin and Julia Hayley
Moscow - Russian prosecutors said on Wednesday they were preparing the necessary papers to get businessman Vladimir Gusinsky extradited to Moscow on charges of alleged fraud after he was arrested in Spain.
Gusinsky, detained at Russia's request on Tuesday, has called the charges political and part of an official clampdown on the Russian press. He has come under heavy pressure this year, and was jailed briefly in June, also on fraud charges.
"The Prosecutor General's Office of Russia is currently preparing the necessary documents to solve the question of
Gusinsky's extradition in line with the European Convention of
1957 'On Extradition'," the office said in a statement.
Spain and Russia have no direct extradition treaty and work
under the 1957 international convention.
The prosecutor's office said it had officially informed
Spain about the charges of large-scale fraud which Gusinsky
faced and of an arrest warrant issued on November 13.
Gusinsky's media, which include Russia's only independent
national television station, NTV, have often criticised the
Kremlin and he has said this is why he has been pressured.
A Spanish lawyer told Reuters in Madrid he saw no quick
decision on Gusinsky.
"This is an extradition that will be very hard fought,"
said Manuel Oye, a lawyer specialising in extradition. "It's
not your typical example. Cases that are economic and also
smell of politics have to be studied very closely and
Spanish police seized Gusinsky at his home in the luxury
Atlantic resort of Sotogrande near the southern city of Cadiz.
"You are making a big mistake. You don't know who I am, I'm
a friend of Bill Clinton's," Spanish daily El Pais quoted
Gusinsky as saying to the four policemen who arrested him.
His lawyers have five days to appeal against his preventive
jailing. Court sources said they were likely to fail as his
high profile and financial clout increased the risk he could
Russia has 40 days to send Spain documentation to back its
extradition request, which needs to be translated and checked
by the High Court before going to the cabinet for approval.
Only then will the court investigation begin and, once
finished, its opinion will be returned to ministers for a final
Other extradition cases have taken up to nine months.
Gusinsky Sees Political Motive
Interpol, the international police organisation, has said
it was checking the truth of allegations by Gusinsky that the
fraud charges have been made on political grounds.
Gusinsky was jailed in June on embezzlement charges,
related to a privatisation deal from the early 1990s. He was
released after three days and later allowed to leave Russia.
The prosecutor's office has preferred and lifted several
charges against Gusinsky. It is not clear on exactly which of
them he is wanted now.
The United States expressed concern on Tuesday over his
arrest and said the pursuit of the media magnate posed a threat
to the independence of the Russian media.
Even without the charges of alleged fraud, Gusinsky's hold
on his media firms has been weakened by a deal he signed with
giant state-controlled gas company Gazprom.
Under the deal, made to settle outstanding debts, Gazprom
took 46 percent of Gusinsky's NTV, plus 19 percent held with no
voting rights as collateral to cover outstanding debts.
President Vladimir Putin has responded to the allegations
of a crackdown on press freedom by insisting a free media is a
vital part of post-Soviet society. But he has also accused
media owners of acting "against the state".