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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Greek Court Approves Extradition of Russian

Greece's Supreme Court ruled Friday that Andrei Kozlenok, a businessman charged with swindling $180 million in gems and precious metals from the Russian government, may be extradited to Russia to stand trial.

Russian authorities have been trying for almost four years to bring Kozlenok to trial for what they say is his role in one of the international diamond trade's most audacious scams. But until now, he had been able to escape extradition.

Ruslan Tamayev, the case's investigator from the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, was quoted by Interfax as saying that Kozlenok's escort had already arrived in Athens, and that the businessman "will be in Moscow in no later than a week's time."

Tamayev was quoted as saying that four of the five Supreme Court judges were in favor of extraditing Kozlenok, the co-founder of the California-based Golden ADA company.

Kozlenok, 32, alleged during the court case that Russian government officials were accomplices to the embezzlement, and that corrupt officials will kill him if he is returned to Russia. The court hearing was delayed while judges considered whether Kozlenok's life would be in danger if he returned to Russia.

In 1995, the Russian government filed a $50 million lawsuit in San Francisco, alleging that Golden ADA never paid for the gems and precious metals it received from Russia's State Precious Metals Reserve in 1993 and 1994. The government alleges that Kozlenok and his partners sold the metals and gems without permission and used the money to bankroll a buying spree that included property, yachts and luxury cars.

After charges were filed against him, Kozlenok fled from the United States to Belgium. Belgian authorities rejected requests from Russian prosecutors to extradite him on the grounds that the two countries do not have an extradition treaty.

He was finally arrested in January, when Greek police, acting on a request from Interpol, detained him at an Athens airport. A lower court approved Russia's request that Kozlenok be extradited, but the businessman's lawyers appealed the ruling in Greece's Supreme Court.

Sergei Dovbysh, a co-founder of Golden ADA and a suspect in another trial related to Golden ADA, died mysteriously in a Moscow police cell in February this year.

"I am more than sure that, given this incident, I shall not have more than two or three days to live if I am extradited to Russia," Kozlenok said in an interview soon after Dovbysh's death.