Court Sanctions Chichvarkin's Arrest In Absentia

The Basmanny District Court on Wednesday sanctioned the arrest of former Yevroset chairman Yevgeny Chichvarkin, who left the country last month and has not returned, in connection with allegations of smuggling, kidnapping and extortion.
The ruling was a victory for prosecutors, who filed a request last week to have Chichvarkin arrested on suspicion of involvement in the 2003 kidnapping and extortion of Yevroset's logistics supervisor, Andrei Vlaskin.
Chichvarkin's lawyer, Yury Gervis, said he would appeal the ruling, which has all but ensured that the businessman will not return to Russia.
"It is very difficult to build up a defense while stuck in jail," Gervis said.
Chichvarkin, who acquaintances say is currently in Britain, has an international warrant out for his arrest, but it is unclear what, if any, steps Russian authorities are taking to secure his detention, Gervis said.
Chichvarkin's assistant, Natalya Ikonnikova, answered the businessman's cell phone Wednesday. She said she had not heard from Chichvarkin and that she learning about developments in the case from the media.
Chichvarkin founded Yevroset in 1997 and subsequently turned it into the country's largest mobile phone retailer. Citing liquidity woes, he sold Yevroset in late September to billionaire Alexander Mamut in a deal that reportedly involved Mamut paying $400 million in cash and assuming $850 million in debt.
Chichvarkin, however, stayed on as chairman of the company until November, when he announced that he was stepping down to focus his energy on promoting the new Kremlin-backed pro-business party Right Cause, whose Moscow branch he was tapped to lead.
The party has sought to portray Chichvarkin's legal woes as an example of authorities unjustly targeting business.
"The court's decision was quite predictable," said Right Cause co-chairman Leonid Gozman, who added that he had spoken with Chichvarkin on Tuesday.
The party will seek a replacement to head its Moscow branch and will likely name candidates later this week, Gozman said.
The Prosecutor General's Office declined to comment Wednesday on whether it would seek Chichvarkin's extradition.
"I doubt they will do this, because they would have to turn to a London court," Gervis said.
Britain has already granted political asylum to several Russian businessmen who have fallen out with Russian authorities and refused Moscow's requests to extradite them.
Gervis said he did not know what kind of British visa Chichvarkin was currently visiting the country on but said the businessman would likely have little trouble extending his stay.
Chichvarkin told Right Cause co-chairman Boris Titov that he was not guilty, Interfax reported Tuesday.