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Russia Asks Britain To Extradite Cell Phone Tycoon

Yevgeny Chichvarkin
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian prosecutors asked Britain on June 17 to arrest and extradite a Russian businessman who fled Russia after being threatened with prosecution for kidnapping and blackmail.

Yevgeny Chichvarkin, 34, spoke out about official corruption and is the latest in a string of fugitive Russian businessmen to have moved to London.

His case is widely viewed as a test of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's attitude to business and the role of the judiciary.

"Today the Prosecutor-General's Office sent a request to the competent bodies of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to extradite Yevgeny Chichvarkin, whose whereabouts have been established to be London," Marina Gridneva, spokeswoman for the prosecutor-general, told reporters.

"The request contains the description of the misdeeds Chichvarkin is charged with, as well as a request to take him into custody and hand him to the Russian Federation to institute criminal proceedings against him.

Gridneva said Chichvarkin had been charged with kidnapping while taking part in an organised criminal group and with extortion.

Chichvarkin's lawyer Yuri Gervis told journalists: "I know nothing of him being called to British authorities or of his whereabouts being established."

Britain's Interior Ministry said: "We cannot confirm or deny any extradition request."

Unmet extradition requests have been a sore point in Russia's worsening relations with Britain in recent years.

Russia attacked Britain for hosting Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky, while Russia's refusal to extradite a suspect in the murder of Berezosky's associate Alexander Litvinenko led to diplomatic expulsions.

Local media said the charges against Chichvarkin relate to the 2003 kidnapping and blackmail of a former employee believed to have stolen from the company.

Chichvarkin, who helped found one of Russia's biggest mobile phone retailers before selling out last year, moved to London last December with his family.

Russia's business daily "Kommersant," without citing sources, wrote on June 17 that British law enforcement officials visited Moscow recently to agree the documentation required for Chichvarkin's extradition.