Sergei Polonsky 'wanted by Moscow in connection with £120m fraud case'

 

Moscow

The controversial property tycoon Sergei Polonsky, key witness in an ongoing trial against fellow Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev, is now wanted by Russian authorities over a massive alleged fraud. Mr Polonsky, who earlier this year skipped bail in Cambodia, where he was awaiting trial for assaulting local sailors, is now also on Russia’s wanted list.

Mr Polonsky is accused by Russian investigators of embezzling around £120m that was earmarked for a luxury residential development in Moscow. He allegedly pocketed downpayments from clients, but the housing was never built. He did not appear before investigators, which could now trigger an Interpol search warrant and demands that he is extradited to Russia.

The multiplying charges against Mr Polonsky complicate the court case against Mr Lebedev, in which the fugitive property tycoon is a central character. Mr Polonsky was punched by Mr Lebedev, the financial backer of The Independent, during a televised chat show in 2011, and Mr Lebedev is now standing trial in a Moscow court on charges of “hooliganism motivated by political hatred”. He has described the case as “absurd” and “fabricated”, and the hearings have frequently taken on a farcical nature. Mr Polonsky’s testimony is key to the case, but he has so far only been represented in court by his lawyers. He said that he could not attend hearings due to the fact that he was not allowed to leave Cambodia. However it is believed that he fled the country and has been hiding in Israel, from where he has posted a number of provocative tweets and photographs.

The latest photograph suggests that he might be back in the Far East, and a Facebook post last week claimed he was in Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. He also said on Facebook he would hold a press conference today, to discuss the new allegations against him.

The trial against Mr Lebedev continues on Friday after a three-week pause, and is expected to conclude within a month. If convicted, Mr Lebedev could be jailed for up to five years. Mr Polonsky faces jail for up to 10 years.

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