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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NTV's Gusinsky Arrested In Spain

Spanish police arrested Vladimir Gusinsky, who is wanted in Russia on fraud charges, at his home in southern Spain in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The arrest was made at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office in Moscow, which issued an arrest warrant for Gusinsky last month after he failed to turn up for questioning in a criminal investigation.

Prosecutors have charged Gusinsky with stripping assets from his Media-MOST holding, a media empire that includes NTV television, Ekho Moskvy radio and the Segodnya newspaper.

Click here to read our Special Report on the struggle for Media-MOST.

Police arrested Gusinsky at his home in Sotogrande and took him to a police station in the town of La Linea, near the British colony of Gibraltar.

"Members of the national police arrested Vladimir Gusinsky in his residence in Sotogrande at 00.10 local time [2:10 a.m. Moscow time]," a Spanish police spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The police said they were holding Gusinsky pending a court decision over whether to press ahead with extradition proceedings.

Media-MOST spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky said the local court refused to rule on the case and passed it to a higher court in Madrid.

Gusinsky was to be escorted to Madrid to attend hearings presided by Baltazar Garson, the same judge who demanded the extradition of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Ekho Moskvy reported Tuesday.

Ostalsky lashed out at the arrest, saying that the case was politically motivated and that Russian law enforcement officials had misled their Spanish counterparts to secure the arrest.

Gusinsky has for months accused the government of trying to crack down on him in retaliation for Media-MOST’s broadcast of coverage critical of the Kremlin.

"I hope that the Spanish justice will carefully look into this case [and] will see its political underpinning and will not become a tool in the hands of the Russian prosecutor’s office," Ostalsky said.

It was unclear Tuesday whether Spanish police were acting on an Interpol warrant, which Russia requested and was granted earlier this month.

Interpol is seeking confirmation from its Moscow bureau that the case is not politically motivated, according to an Interpol statement issued Monday.

"The National Central Bureau in Moscow has been asked to provide evidence showing that the charge against Mr. Gusinsky is an ordinary law crime," the statement said. "The Moscow bureau has also been asked to provide details of the charge brought in November 2000."

Interpol’s Russia bureau refused to comment on the case Tuesday.

Officials at the Prosecutor General’s Office could not be reached because of a national holiday.

Interfax reported that acting Prosecutor General Yury Biryukov and the head of the agency’s investigative arm, Vasily Kolmogorov, met Tuesday afternoon to discuss Gusinsky’s deportation from Spain.

The arrest Tuesday was the second time Gusinsky has been picked up by the police this year. The prosecutor’s office ordered his arrest in June on embezzlement charges in a separate case. The arrest drew an international outcry, and Gusinsky was released after spending three days behind bars.

Those charges were dropped after Gusinsky agreed to settle multimillion-dollar debts owed by Media-MOST to state-controlled gas giant Gazprom by handing over stakes in its subsidiaries.

Gusinsky, who fled the country for Western Europe, later backed out of the deal, saying it wasn’t binding because he had signed it under pressure.

Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom-Media then sued Gusinsky on accusations of stripping assets from Media-MOST.

A new deal was agreed upon four days after the prosecutor’s office brought the asset-stripping charges against Gusinsky. A sign that the terms of that agreement — which swaps Media-MOST shares for its debt — are being met came Dec. 5 when Gazprom-Media withdrew one of two lawsuits against Media-MOST. The second suit is to be dropped Dec. 20 if Media-MOST continues to fulfill its end of the bargain.

However, under the law, any settlement of the debt and asset-stripping dispute would not affect the criminal charges against Gusinsky. If found guilty of fraud, he could still be imprisoned.