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Nicolaou appoints criminal investigator into circumstances that allowed Russian suspect to escape

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou requested the appointment of a criminal investigator to look into the escape of 42-year-old Artur Garibyan Kuznetsov who managed to flee on Monday from the Nicosia court where he was about to appear for an extradition hearing to Russia, it was announced on Thursday.

The decision to request from the attorney-general the appointment of a criminal investigator follows the report Nicolaou received from police into the incident.

“There are possibly issues concerning criminal offences of omissions made by both officers who  were transporting the particular person in court, or even omissions due to that they had not assessed his dangerousness,” Nicolaou said. He added that Kuznetsov had a troubled past, as he had also escaped from the Russian authorities.

Kuznetsov, a holder of both a Russian and Ukranian passport, had been arrested by the Cypriot police after Russia had issued an international arrest warrant for his involvement in a drug case. On Monday, he managed to run away from the courtroom as soon as his handcuffs were removed. He then fled on a motorbike driven by an accomplice. He had been escorted to court by two officers. Police are now searching for his whereabouts.

“This is not about some disciplinary omissions, or disciplinary offences, there might also be criminal offences, either due to negligence or intentional acts,” Nicolaou said.

Everyone, and especially police officers ought to act responsibly, he said, and always assess risks and take the necessary measures.

“There is no excuse to allow omission, nor negligence, and I do not accept any justification for any reasons,” Nicolaou said.

He added that the attorney-general would decide how long the criminal investigation would take  to be completed, but that he didn’t believe it would take too long.

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,” police spokesman Andreas Angelides had said.

Opposition Akel mouthpiece, Haravgi had said on Wednesday Nicolaou bears political responsibility for Kuznetsov‘s escape and that he showed great tolerance for a number of serious incidents concerning murders and police corruption cases both within the corps and the central prisons.

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