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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Greece Refuses to Extradite Gusinsky

APIt took Judge Nikos Fagiolas just about one minute to throw out the Russian request.
ATHENS, Greece -- A Greek appeals court on Tuesday rejected a Russian extradition request for Vladimir Gusinsky, accused in his country of fraud and money laundering.

In a hearing that lasted about one minute, appellate court Judge Nikos Fagiolas threw out the Russian request after ruling that under Greek law the accusations against the former media magnate did not constitute a crime and were not proven.

"The court rules against the extradition request because the crimes are not proven. It lifts the restrictions that have been placed on the accused," Fagiolas told the court.

The hearing began with a short statement read out by defense lawyer Alexandros Lykourezos, who said Russian claims that Gusinsky owed money to the state were unfounded.

"No crime has taken place," he said.

After an equally short statement from another defense lawyer and a nod of assent from Gusinsky, Fagiolas read out the decision made jointly by the three-member appellate court.

Gusinsky, who had been released on bail a week after his arrest in Athens on Aug. 21, was set free and left the downtown Athens court in a jeep.

"He will leave Greece this afternoon," Lykourezos said.

He was expected to return to his home in Israel later in the day, lawyers said.

"I am satisfied with the court's decision," a smiling Gusinsky said without further comment.

Another of his lawyers, Antonis Vgontzas, said the court decision saved Greece from "an insane adventure."

"We are not simply satisfied, we are enthusiastic," Vgontzas said.

Russian prosecutors -- acting on the Greek court's request -- sent additional documentation last week to bolster the extradition bid for Gusinsky. The Prosecutor General's Office said new information sent on Sept. 7 gave details of Gusinsky's compensation agreement with state-owned gas company Gazprom, Interfax reported.

The gas giant took over Gusinsky's media holdings in 2001 -- a move widely criticized as a blow to media freedom.

The Prosecutor General's Office refused to comment on Tuesday's decision, saying it had yet to receive an official notification from Greece, Interfax reported. It said, however, that its investigation into Gusinsky remained ongoing.

During a Sept. 29 hearing, a Greek prosecutor had described the extradition request as "unclear."

Gusinsky was arrested after arriving from Israel. He was released on bail a week later and has since been staying at a luxury hotel in Athens. His 100,000 euro ($117,000) bail was returned.

He claimed the Russian accusations were part of a politically motivated vendetta for criticizing Moscow's leaders and their policies.

It was the second time Gusinsky has successfully blocked Russia's attempt to bring him back since fleeing the country three years ago.

In 2001, Spanish authorities rejected an extradition request and freed him, saying the allegations would not amount to crimes in Spain. He then moved to Israel. Gusinsky has both Russian and Israeli passports. Israel and the United States had reportedly asked Greece to block the extradition, but Greece has denied being pressured.