Chichvarkin Released on Bail

Fugitive tycoon Yevgeny Chichvarkin was briefly arrested in London on Monday and freed on bail of £100,000 ($166,000) ahead of extradition hearings, a British court said Thursday.

Chichvarkin was released after about two hours in custody upon paying bail, and a preliminary extradition hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 22, a Westminster Magistrates’ Court spokesman told The Moscow Times.

The Prosecutor General’s Office has charged Chichvarkin with kidnapping and extortion in connection to his activities as head of Yevroset, Russia’s leading cell phone retailer. It filed a formal extradition request for Chichvarkin to Britain in June. The businessman is also on Interpol’s most-wanted list.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry expressed hope that the Westminster court, which handles extradition requests in Britain, would rule in favor of the Russian prosecutors, who have been rebuffed in previous attempts to extradite prominent Russians fleeing from justice, like self-exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky and former Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev.

“Hopefully, this time the traditional situation will not be repeated in which a suspect who committed a clear criminal offense and whose extradition is being sought by Russia is presented as another victim of political persecution,” ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters, Interfax reported.

Before Chichvarkin, Zakayev was the only prominent Russian fugitive to be arrested on British soil. He was released after paying a bail of £50,000.

Chichvarkin’s Russian lawyer, Yury Gervis, said by telephone Thursday that his client “was free and still is free.” He claimed that the statement of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court is not correct, without elaborating.

Chichvarkin, the 34-year-old co-founder of Russia’s leading cell phone retailer Yevroset, faces charges that he took part in the 2003 abduction of the company’s shipping agent Andrei Vlaskin, who had allegedly stolen large quantities of mobile phones, as well as the extortion of money from him. If convicted on both charges, Chichvarkin could spend more than 30 years in jail.

He has lived in Britain since fleeing Russia in December and denies any wrongdoing.

“I am absolutely innocent, and I will be proving it to the British court,” he told Reuters by telephone last Friday.