Cyprus Mail
Crime Cyprus

Opposition points finger at Nicolaou over suspect escape

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou

OPPOSITION Akel mouthpiece, Haravgi said on Wednesday that Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou bears political responsibility for the escape on Monday of 42-year-old Artur Garibyan Kuznetsov who managed to flee from the Nicosia court where he was about to appear for an extradition hearing to Russia.

Under the title ‘Mr Minister, you bear political responsibilities’, the daily said that this was the second escape in less than a month, following Russian billionaire Dmitry Gerasimenko’s disappearance on December 27.

Gerasimenko, 38, had been arrested at Larnaca airport on arriving from Milan on December 15. He was wanted by Russian authorities in connection with the embezzlement, between 2007 and 2009, of $65 million for securing a loan without adequate collateral, but during an earlier extradition hearing, the state prosecution informed the court that the authorities in Russia had withdrawn the arrest warrant for this case, and he was released.

The Russian authorities in the meantime had established that the loan was secured by the company’s previous owners, prompting them to withdraw the warrant but subsequently issue a new one for his arrest, this time on charges he embezzled company assets.

The new charges were not included in Interpol’s November 29 notice, when the agency issued an international arrest warrant for him, leading to the attorney-general’s office requesting the extradition proceedings in Cyprus be dropped.

“The 38-year-old managed to escape between the cancellation of the first and the implementation of the second extradition request from Russia revealing complete incoordination between the competent state authorities,” the daily said.

Gerasimenko vanished leaving behind his passport and without collecting the bail he had posted, the daily said. Police, following his disappearance, issued a new appeal for information on his whereabouts.

Haravgi said that in spite of that, Garibyan’s was the second escape in less than a month, and despite the suspicions of police involvement, Nicolaou, “is limited to an administrative investigation, without any reference to potential political responsibility of the government”.

As regards the escape of Garibyan, the daily said that police spokesman Andreas Angelides admitted on Tuesday on Astra radio that the escape had been planned and that one of the questions that needed to be answered is how did Garibyan’s accomplices know the time of his arrival in court.

Garibyan, a holder of both a Russian and Ukranian passport, had entered the courtroom escorted by two officers but as soon as his handcuffs were removed he ran away and fled on a motorbike driven by an accomplice. Cypriot police had arrested the 42-year-old after Russia had issued an international arrest warrant for his involvement in a drug case.

Despite that Nicolaou, during his time as an opposition MP, had a very strict stance against other justice ministers in similar cases, Haravgi said, he now exhibits great tolerance to    a number of serious incidents concerning murders and police corruption cases both within the corps and the central prisons.

Meanwhile, the justice ministry’s prisons department rejected claims made on Wednesday by daily Phileleftheros, which reported that Garibyan had been training to run the 100-metre dash  in the Nicosia central prison’s exercise field as part of his escape plans, and that he had planned the escape with his accomplices over the phone.

The inmate had no telephone contacts while in prison, nor any visitors, except from his two lawyers, an announcement said.

An administrative probe into the escape of the 42-year-old was launched on Tuesday by police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou. The probe aims at determining whether any responsibilities are attributable, and if this is the case, “all stringency margins will be exhausted,” Angelides had said.


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