Interview of the Head of the General Department of International Legal Cooperation Petr Gorodov with RIA Novosti news agency

Petr Gorodov: criminals from the Russian Federation have settled in the countries which have no extradition treaty

In an interview with RIA Novosti, Head of the General Department of International Legal Cooperation of the RF Prosecutor General’s Office Petr Gorodov, told RIA Novosti about the extradition of criminals from and to Russia in the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the difficulties faced in extraditing criminals from the United States, the new developments in the investigation of high-profile cases such as the crash of the plane with the Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the murder of Georgian citizen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Germany.

- Petr Petrovich, how many people were extradited to Russia from different countries in 2020 at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia?

- The Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia cooperates in the area of criminal justice with foreign partners of more than 80 countries of the world. And, of course, the extradition for criminal prosecution or execution of a sentence is an important part of this cooperation. In 2020, the RF Prosecutor General’s Office sent more than 350 such requests to the competent bodies of foreign states. In comparison, at the end of 2019, this figure was about 450.

- Which means that the number of requests has decreased by almost a quarter. Why?

- The number of requests sent abroad has reduced due to the worldwide spread of COVID-19. However, in 2020, 165 people were extradited to Russia by foreign states, 64 of which by non-CIS countries. These figures are similar to those of the last year.

- From which states were the individuals extradited in 2020?

- In 2020, positive decisions on Russian requests were made by the competent authorities of the neighboring countries: Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan. And also, by Germany, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Cyprus, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Montenegro, Lithuania, Morocco, Vietnam, Egypt, Thailand, Turkey, Argentina.

In general, we have succeeded in securing the extradition to Russia of several individuals accused of grave and especially grave crimes, including in some high-profile matters, as well as the persons who have committed corruption crimes.

For example, in March, the Prosecutor General’s Office secured the extradition from Poland of Vyacheslav Vishnevsky, Director General of OAO “Kemerovo Confectionery Works”, who for a bribe to the officials received a permit for the reconstruction of the building of “Zimnyaya Vishnya” shopping and entertainment mall, which had been carried out improperly. Due to this, in 2018, as we remember, a terrible tragedy occurred in the mall – a fire that killed 60 people, 37 of whom were children.

I also cannot fail to acknowledge another positive example of cooperation. The competent authorities of the Netherlands, in an expedited manner, made a decision to extradite Nikita Smurov to Russia under the simplified procedure, for the enforcement of the judgment of the Pacific Fleet Court. He was accused of embezzling the property entrusted to him valued more than 52 million rubles.

- How many requests for the extradition from Russia did the RF Prosecutor General’s Office, in its turn, receive in 2020? And how many of them were granted?

- The RF Prosecutor General’s Office considered over 900 requests from the competent authorities of foreign states for the extradition from the Russian Federation. Last year – over 1.2 thousand requests. The reason for the decrease in the number of requests examined by us is the same – the pandemic.

Last year, foreign extradition requests were denied in respect of 120 individuals, mostly from the CIS Member States. There were only 13 cases when we did not grant the extradition requests from non-CIS countries. The main reasons for refusals to extradite relate to: the expiration of the statute of limitations (43 cases); the absence of corpus delicti (38 cases); the presence of Russian citizenship (27 cases) and, finally, the granting of asylum or concerns that the extradition may harm sovereignty or security or it is contrary to Russian legislation, – there were only six such cases.

- And what are the countries from which Russia receives the most requests for the extradition of the accused or suspected persons?

- First of all, I would like to note the fruitful cooperation with the competent authorities of the CIS countries. Last year, we made 610 decisions on extradition for criminal prosecution, over 580 of them – on extradition to the CIS countries. The greatest number of extradition requests were received from Belarus and Uzbekistan. In 2019, about 800 foreign requests for extradition were granted, of which more than 700 – also from the CIS countries.

- In general, over the past 10 years, how many requests were sent by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation for the extradition of citizens who are on the wanted list?

- In the past 10 years, we sent more than five thousand requests for the extradition of individuals for criminal prosecution and execution of a court sentence, we have considered more than 19 thousand such requests from abroad.

It is noteworthy that Russia’s experience of cooperation with foreign states in crime combating shows that persons suspected and accused of the crimes are tending to hide from the investigation and the court in the foreign states that have no extradition treaties with the Russian Federation. However, there is a positive experience of cooperation with such countries based on the principle of reciprocity. For example, on the basis of this principle, criminals were extradited from Iraq, Ecuador, Cambodia, Egypt, Peru and Morocco.

- By the way, Russia has no extradition treaty with the United States. How is the problem of the extradition of the accused or suspects hiding in the United States being solved or is going to be solved?

- In general, the cooperation in the extradition area between Russia and the United States is carried out on the basis of the principle of reciprocity, which I have already noted. At the same time, the US competent authorities refuse to extradite persons to the Russian Federation in the absence of a bilateral treaty, and they do not regard as a legal basis for resolving such issues other international instruments, like, for example, the provisions of the UN multilateral conventions against transnational organized crime, corruption, and other mechanisms, such as the principle of reciprocity.

Currently, according to our information, there are nearly 200 people in the United States who have committed crimes in Russia and have been put on the international wanted list.

When we receive the information about the whereabouts of an internationally wanted offender in the United States, we often send requests to the US Department of Justice for transmission of the relevant materials to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to consider the deportation of the sought citizen to Russia.

In addition, the necessary procedural documents are sent to the NCB of Russia to be transmitted to the NCB of USA, so that they can use them in the Immigration Court. We send the same documents to the representative of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the US Department of Homeland Security to facilitate the deportation of the wanted person.

The entire deportation proceedings are constantly monitored, and, if necessary, additional materials are promptly sent to the competent US authorities with the view of positive decision on the matter. I would note that if a person violates US immigration laws, the investigating proceedings and decision making in this case may take several years.

In general, in 2020, the US competent authorities decided to deport (expel) only one person, whereas in 2019, no such decisions whatsoever were made.

Thus, on 3 December, at Sheremetyevo international airport, Stanislav Eduardovich Lisitsky accused of premeditated destruction of other people’s property by arson and of the attempted murder of two persons, in connection with the performance of his official activities, committed by an organized group, was handed over to the law enforcement agencies of Russia.

- How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the issues related to the extradition both from and to Russia?

- Despite the ongoing pandemic and the introduction of quarantine measures by many countries, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia continues its active international cooperation with the prosecution and justice authorities of other states in combating crime, including in the area of extradition. As before, requests from foreign states for the extradition of persons for criminal prosecution or execution of a sentence are considered in conformity with the established procedure. This process is hampered by the suspension of transport communications by Russia and other countries.

But we are successfully applying the practice of de facto transfer of extradited persons at the land borders of the Russian Federation. Of course, the surrender of the extradited persons is carried out in compliance with the necessary safety measures, including sanitary standards, during their transportation.

- Let’s turn to some other cases. Petr Petrovich, according to different sources, 10-14 requests for legal assistance from Berlin are examined in Russia every year. What are the matters underlying these requests?

- As regards the interaction of the RF Prosecutor General’s Office with the competent authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany, it is generally maintained in a constructive way. Every year we receive from Germany not 10-14 requests, as you said, but about 30 requests for legal assistance in criminal matters involving different types crimes. We, in our turn, send about 40 requests to Germany for legal assistance. There are no problematic issues in the interaction with German partners, including in criminal cases related to the crimes committed during World War II and the Great Patriotic War.

- Did the Prosecutor’s Office of Germany request additional information from Russian colleagues in relation to the case of murder of Georgian citizen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, of which Russian national Sokolov is accused? If so, what kind of information?

- The RF Prosecutor General’s Office received from the Federal Office of Justice of the Federal Republic of Germany two requests for legal assistance of the Prosecutor’s Office of Berlin, which were replied. No additional information was requested.

- In September, the court in Poland received an application from the local Prosecutor General’s Office for the arrest of Russian air traffic controllers in connection with the case of the crash near Smolensk in 2010 of the plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski. Did the Polish competent bodies send a request for international legal assistance in this matter to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia?

- In this regard I can say the following. From September until present, no requests for legal assistance and extradition in respect of Russian air traffic controllers have been received from the competent bodies of Poland in the criminal case of the air crash on 10 April 2010 near Smolensk of the Tu-154 M plane of the President of Poland.

- And what is the current stage of consideration of Russia’s request for providing a transcript of the conversation between President of Poland Lech Kaczynski and his brother?

- We sent the request back on 24 November 2020, but to date, we have not yet received any reply.


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