Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 232

Spanish police arrested Media-Most chief Vladimir Gusinsky at his home in the resort town of Sotogrande on Spain’s Costa del Sol early yesterday. Gusinsky was arrested on the basis of an international warrant issued by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office and passed on by Interpol, the international police organization. Last month, after Gusinsky failed to answer a summons for questioning in connection with charges that he committed large-scale fraud in securing US$300 million in loans for Media-Most from Gazprom, the natural gas giant, Russian prosecutors issued a national arrest warrant for the tycoon and put him on the country’s wanted list (see the Monitor, November 2, 13). The prosecutors also revived charges against Gusinsky in connection with the so-called Russkoye Video case. According to those charges, Gusinsky had allegedly embezzled at least US$10 million from the St. Petersburg firm Russkoye Video while it was being privatized (see the Monitor, November 17). The media magnate was arrested and jailed briefly on those charges this past June. Finally, the Russian authorities earlier this month put Gusinsky on Interpol’s wanted list (see the Monitor, December 8). Spain’s Foreign Ministry confirmed yesterday that Gusinsky had been arrested in response to an international warrant issued by the Russian authorities and passed on by Interpol. Gusinsky was detained and then transferred to Madrid, where he will remain in detention until the Spanish authorities rule on whether to extradite the media magnate. Judge Baltasar Garzon, known for his attempts to prosecute former Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet, was to preside over an initial hearing concerning Gusinsky’s possible extradition to Russia. Garzon reportedly did not accept Gusinsky’s explanations that the case against him is politically motivated and incarcerated the Russian tycoon on the basis of material presented by Interpol. According to other reports, however, Interpol has denied playing any role in Gusinsky’s arrest. Meanwhile, Gusinsky spent the night in Madrid’s Soto del Real, a prison for ordinary (as opposed to VIP and white-collar) criminals. This was somewhat ironic–bitterly so for Gusinsky–given that the tycoon spent several nights in Moscow’s notorious Butyrka remand prison during his brief incarceration last June.

Vladimir Ustinov, Russia’s prosecutor general, said yesterday that his office was planning to send a large package of documents concerning Gusinsky to the Spanish authorities, and that he was certain that Madrid would comply with Moscow’s request to turn over Gusinsky on the basis of an agreement signed during the Soviet period which is still in effect. For his part, Sergei Ivanov, secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council, said that Russia’s Foreign Ministry would in the nearest future confirm to the Spanish authorities that Gusinsky was a wanted fugitive. Both Ustinov and Ivanov were in Palermo, Sicily, for a UN-sponsored conference on organized crime. Meanwhile, Valery Nikolaev, the Prosecutor General’s Office official who is leading the investigation into Gusinsky, reportedly officially informed the Spanish law enforcement authorities today about the charges of large-scale fraud against Gusinsky. Nikolaev is working on the documents necessary to secure the tycoon’s transfer back to Russia on the basis of a 1957 European extradition convention (Russian agencies, NTV, Reuters, Agence France Presse, December 12-13).