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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spain Defends Arrest of Gusinsky

MADRID, Spain - Spain on Wednesday defended its arrest of Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, saying it had complied with a valid international warrant and would not enter debate over whether he is a victim of political persecution because of his criticism of the Kremlin.

Spanish police arrested Gusinsky, indicted in his country on fraud charges, early Tuesday at a mansion he owns in the southern Spanish town of San Roque.

A Spanish Foreign Ministry official said those police acted on a warrant issued by Moscow through Interpol, the international police agency to which both countries belong, and that all the papers were in order.

"That's all there is to it,"said the official, who declined to be named. "We don't get into whether it this is a case of an economic crime or a political crime."

Gusinsky's Media-Most company charged Tuesday that the fraud charges against 48-year-old Gusinsky a Kremlin attempt to punish him for criticizing the government after falling out with it last year and said Spain should not extradite him.

Russian prosecutors accuse Gusinsky of misrepresenting assets in Media-Most when he accepted loans of more than dlrs 300 million guaranteed by Russia's state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom. They say Gusinsky's companies were legally bankrupt at the time.

Gusinky appeared in Madrid Tuesday evening before investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzon of the National Court for a preliminary hearing and was later jailed pending a detailed study of his case by the court. Russia still has to file a formal extradition request.

Garzon said he was denying Gusinsky bail because his wealth made him a risk to flee the country, Spanish newspapers said.

The daily El Pais said that as police arrested Gusinsky at his mansion, the Russian exclaimed: "You are making a big mistake. You don't know who I am. I am a friend of Bill Clinton."

The veracity of that assertion is not immediately known but during a visit to Moscow in June, Clinton did appear as a guest on Ekho Moskvy radio, one of Gusinsky's media holdings. The appearance was seen as a symbolic defense of independent media.

The following month Gusinsky was unexpectedly jailed for four days when he showed up for questioning in a privatization fraud case. The charges, which he called politically motivated, were later dropped. But the sudden arrest was cited by his attorney as a reason why Gusinsky declined to answer a summons for questioning in the current fraud case.

The next step in the legal proceedings here in Spain is for the National Court to study the Russian extradition request once it arrives, and then approve or reject it.

Two key criteria for Spain to extradite someone are whether the person is accused of an offense that is also a crime in Spain, and whether conviction would carry a sentence of more than one year. In the Gusinsky case both are met, the Spanish foreign ministry official said. In Moscow Yuri Vasilchenko, spokesman for the prosecutor general's office, said Wednesday that Russia has "officially informed Spain of the charges against Gusinsky, large-scale fraud, and we are preparing the necessary documents for extradition."

Vasilchenko said prosecutors didn't expect much trouble with the extradition request.

In Moscow, Gusinsky's lawyers dismissed ass "biased, incomplete and untrue"information supplied to Spanish law-enforcement agencies by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, Interfax said.

Lawyer Pavel Astakhov told Interfax that the defense plans to provide the Spanish side with documents confirming that political pressure is being put on Gusinsky by the Russian authorities.