Russian magnate held by Spanish police


Mr Vladimir Gusinsky: wanted in Russia for alleged fraud, he claims the charges against him are politically motivated.

Spanish police yesterday arrested the Russian media magnate, Mr Vladimir Gusinsky, who is wanted in his home country for alleged fraud but claims the charges against him are politically motivated.

Mr Gusinsky was arrested at his residence shortly after midnight in the luxury beach resort of Sotogrande near the southern city of Cadiz, a Spanish police spokesman said.

"We can confirm that he was arrested in Sotogrande, arriving from Gibraltar, under an Interpol arrest warrant," said a spokesman for Spain's foreign ministry.

Mr Gusinsky, who left Russia six months ago, was being held in a police station in the town of La Linea, next to the British colony of Gibraltar.

He was due to face a first extradition hearing in Spain's High Court in Madrid later yesterday, according to a court source, but the source had earlier said the hearing would occur tomorrow.

In Russia, a lawyer for Mr Gusinsky said his legal team would fight to block his extradition to Russia. Mr Pavel Astakhov said Mr Gusinsky's legal team was confident it could demonstrate to Spanish authorities that the arrest warrant for Mr Gusinsky was politically motivated and he should not be sent to Russia.

Russian authorities issued an international arrest warrant for the financier earlier in December after he failed to appear for questioning in November.

Mr Gusinsky has said the charges against him are politically motivated after his independent Media-Most group criticised Mr Putin's administration.

The High Court source said any extradition would not take place until January at the earliest because Spain and Russia have no direct extradition treaty. Mr Gusinsky left Russia after being jailed briefly in June and aides have said he has spent time in Britain, Gibraltar, Israel and Spain, where his family lives.

The US State Department in July welcomed a decision by Russian prosecutors to drop previous charges against Mr Gusinsky as "a welcome signal regarding respect for freedom of the press, rule of law and due process in Russia."