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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zhivilo Awaits Asylum in Paris Jail

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Siberian metals magnate Mikhail Zhivilo has been detained in Paris on an Interpol warrant accusing him of plotting to assassinate Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev.

But the arrest Thursday took place a day after Zhivilov — on the advice of his attorneys — applied for asylum in France, the Zhivilov-owned MIKOM metals holding said Friday in a statement carried by Interfax.

Zhivilo was once a major shareholder in the Novokuznetsk Aluminum Plant, the fifth-biggest aluminum producer in Russia. He was ousted in a bitter takeover battle that saw Russian Aluminum gain control of the plant. He then went missing last summer after Tuleyev accused him of masterminding the assassination attempt.

A warrant for Zhivilo's arrest was issued Sept. 1 and subsequently passed over to Interpol.

Prosecutor Vladimir Vodolazsky said at a briefing Friday that the Prosecutor General's Office would hand over the extradition paperwork to France in one to two weeks.

"We have enough evidence to prove a link between Mikhail Zhivilo and the attempt to kill Aman Tuleyev," he said. "There is nothing complicated about it. It's just a clearly criminal offense."

He said the prosecutor's office followed Zhivilo's trail to France between November and December.

Vladimir Gordiyenko, head of Russia's Interpol branch, said that in addition to attempted murder, Zhivilo is accused of "several other economic crimes." He did not specify which ones.

"We filed our requests to France several times, and Thursday we were informed that he had been detained," Gordiyenko said.

MIKOM said in its statement that the charges were "false" and "absurd."

Police arrested former Olympic champion Alexander Tikhonov and his brother Viktor late last summer on charges of plotting the murder of Tuleyev. While Viktor admitted to conspiracy to murder, Alexander denied any involvement and was later released.

Zhivilo's representatives said that Russia faces a fierce battle if it intends to bring the businessman back home.

"Mikhail Zhivilo allowed himself to be taken into custody by French authorities in Paris … as part of the normal legal process related to an application for territorial asylum," said Matthew Benson, representative of the New York-based Citigate Sard Verbinnen, which is acting on behalf of Zhivilo's partners in a $2.7 billion suit over the Novokuznetsk plant.

"I can tell you I know he has met with his attorneys and remains confident that he will be afforded full protection under French law and continues to believe that the decision to seek territorial asylum in France was a wise one," Benson said in an e-mail.

Benson said Zhivilo was seeking asylum over a previous Interpol warrant accusing him of fraud, a charge that he also denies.

"Now that he is formally under the protection of the French government, Mr. Zhivilo will apply to be released on his own recognizance pending the determination of his application," he said. "He is cooperating with French authorities and remains confident that he will be treated fairly, protected and accorded due process under French law, and ultimately exonerated on all charges."

The prosecutor's office in Moscow did not have any comment about how the asylum plea might affect its extradition bid.

Zhivilo's trading partners — three offshore metals companies — filed suit in New York last year demanding $2.7 billion in lost sales and damages after Russian Aluminum took over Novokuznetsk Aluminum. The lawsuit also accuses Russian Aluminum shareholders of bribery, intimidation and murder.

Russian Aluminum denies the allegations.

Bruce Marks, an attorney with Egorov, Ouginsky, Afanasiev & Marks LLC who is representing the three traders, said he believes Zhivilo will never be extradited.

"Taking into account the unsubstantiality of the accusations against Zhivilo in Russia, no single country — such as, say, France — will ever extradite him," Marks was quoted by Vedomosti as saying. "We are sure that in the end he will be cleared of the false accusations."