A Spanish court is expected to decide either today or tomorrow whether to honor a request by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office that Vladimir Gusinsky, founder and head of the Media-Most group, be extradited to face charges of large-scale fraud. The court began the extradition hearing last week, during which Gusinsky’s lawyers argued that the charges against him were politically motivated. Gusinsky is accused of defrauding Media-Most’s largest creditor, Gazprom, by taking out hundreds of million dollars in loans. The Spanish prosecutor, Eduardo Fuingarin, argued that his side was simply answering a formal extradition request from Moscow and had no right to doubt that the warrant was groundless (NTV, March 18). Last week, just before the hearing got underway, Fuingarin said he believed that the Russian extradition request was not politically motivated (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 14). A panel made up of three judges is hearing the case.
Gusinsky, who was arrested in Spain last December on an international warrant issued by the Russian authorities, was subsequently released on US$5.5 million bail and kept under what amounted to house arrest in his villa in southern Spain. Gusinsky was put back in prison last week just prior to the start of the extradition hearing, on the grounds that there was a risk he would attempt to flee the country (Kommersant, March 13). Some Russian observers viewed the decision to put Gusinsky back in jail for the duration of the extradition hearing as a sign that that Spanish authorities were predisposed to satisfying the Russian side’s extradition request and thus that the court was likely to decide in favor of returning the media magnate to Russia. Indeed, Yevgeny Kiselev, general director of Media-Most’s NTV television channel and host of Itogi, its weekly news analysis program, seemed last night to be preparing the program’s viewers for the likelihood that the Spanish court would decide against Gusinsky. “Whatever court decision is announced tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” Kiselev said, Gusinsky’s lawyers had the right to appeal, meaning that in the case the court decided to fulfill the Russian extradition request, there would be a new hearing in one to three months. Kiselev also noted that the final decision over whether to extradite Gusinsky would not be made by the Spanish courts, but by the Spanish government. Kiselev also noted the 1957 European convention on extradition, which Russian ratified in 1999, states that a given extradition request should not be satisfied if there are sufficient grounds to believe that it was made with intention of persecuting a person for their race, religion, nationality or political beliefs (NTV, March 18). Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s press service denied over the weekend that President Vladimir Putin had asked Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Asnara for assistance in Gusinsky’s extradition (Polit.ru, March 17).
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN POLICY REGAINING ITS BEARINGS.