Russia Asks France to Extradite Former Putin Ally on Theft Claim

  • Ex-banker Pugachyov calls move ‘absurd,’ denies charges
  • Pugachyov sentenced to 2 years in prison by U.K. court in 2016

Russian prosecutors filed a request Thursday to extradite former banker and Kremlin insider Sergei Pugachyov from France on charges of theft and embezzlement, according to an emailed statement.

The Prosecutor General’s office accused Pugachyov of taking more than 90 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) from his International Industrial Bank as it neared collapse in 2010. The Russian Deposit Insurance Agency has been fighting in courts in several countries for years to recover the funds.

Pugachyov, who is a subject to a $2 billion worldwide asset freeze, has faced court proceedings in Russia and the U.K. Last year, a British judge sentenced him to two years in prison for giving false evidence and flouting court orders. He participated in that hearing by video link from France, where he had fled from the U.K. after an earlier Russian extradition request. He said he feared for his safety in Britain.

Pugachyov, a one-time billionaire and former senator who claims to have been a close confidante of President Vladimir Putin during his first two terms in 2000-2008, alleges the prosecution is politically motivated.

Speaking in a telephone interview Tuesday from France, he called the latest extradition request “absurd” and an effort at “intimidation” by the Kremlin. He said he is a French citizen and gave up his Russian passport in 2012, and thus is not subject to extradition.

Russia revoked International Industrial Bank’s license in 2010 after the bank defaulted on 200 million euros ($219 million) in foreign-currency bonds. Pugachyov in 2015 filed a $12 billion arbitration claim against Russia for allegedly stripping him of his investments.

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