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British court delays Yevgeny Chichvarkin extradition hearing

Date: 3 Aug 2010

Yevgeny Chichvarkin

Russian businessman Yevgeny Chichvarkin, founder of mobile phone retailer Yevroset, has had court hearings into his extradition delayed until September. The case has been brought, according to Chichvarkin, because he refused to pay bribes or to comply with Russia's culture of corruption.

Chichvarkin provoked the ire of the authorities in 2006 when he was preparing Yevroset for a London flotation, and reportedly pulled the plug on bribery that was common throughout the rest of the industry. A process of harrassment then began, which culminated in the businessman and his family moving to the UK as an arrest warrant was made again him for kidnap and extortion.

The accusations stem from an incident in 2003 when an employee was found to have stolen $1m worth of phones. In the absence of action by law enforcement, the employee was held in rented appartments by company security officers until he paid compensation to the company. No action had been taken on the incident until after 2006 when a vice president of the company was arrested.

Yevgeny Chichvarkin has a modern, popular appeal as one of the new breed of Russian entrepreneurs - with a strong following particularly amongst the staff of his own company. He recently made a video naming government officials he believed to be the prime movers in his pursuit.

Mr Chichvarkin's mother died recently from a blow to the head, which he believes was murder to try to entice him to return to Russia where he could be arrested. Offical reports dismissed the incident as an accident, although a new probe into the cause of the 60-year-old's death has now been announced and authorities have admitted that the elderly victim had been beaten up before her death.

The case against Chichvarkin has raised another question mark over how easy it is for businesses to operate inside Russia without giving in to a culture of routine corruption. It carries echoes of the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of Yukos, currently serving out a long jail term.

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