Cambodian court frees Russian tycoon pending assault trial

PHNOM PENH Wed Apr 3, 2013 5:35am EDT

Sergei Polonsky, co-owner of Russian developer Mirax, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Moscow, April 28, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Sergei Polonsky, co-owner of Russian developer Mirax, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Moscow, April 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

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PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Cambodian court provisionally freed Russian real estate tycoon Sergei Polonsky on Wednesday but ordered him not to leave the country, where he faces trial on charges of assault and illegal detention, a defense attorney said.

Polonsky, 40, who was worth $1.2 billion before the global financial crisis, was detained in January with two other Russians over allegations they forced crew members to jump from a boat at knife point and punched one.

"The court has ruled that he is released on bail due to ill health," one of Polonsky's lawyers, Long Salux, told Reuters, adding the alleged offence was being treated as a misdemeanor rather than a more serious felony.

He declined to elaborate on Polonsky's health.

Long Salux said the court had ordered Polonsky not to leave the country pending his trial and that he should inform police of his movements.

A Moscow-based lawyer for Polonsky, Alexander Dobrovinsky, told a Russian radio station that Polonsky was released on $50,000 bail, but Long Salux said his client had not deposited any bail money.

A witness told Reuters Polonsky had left a provincial prison wearing only what looked like a shawl around his waist.

A car was outside and a Russian man who had been waiting for him got into a scuffle with a journalist who had been trying to film the scene, the witness said.

Just after Polonsky's arrest in January, a lawyer for the boatmen told Reuters they had dropped their complaint against the Russians in exchange for $20,000 compensation.

Police had said the boatmen were ferrying Polonsky from an island back to the town of Preah Sihanouk on the mainland, about 225 km (140 miles) southwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.

Polonsky's company, Mirax Group, experienced serious problems during the global financial crisis and was reorganized under the name Potok.

The tycoon is perhaps best known outside Russia for an incident in 2011 in which Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev threw a punch at him during a television talk show.

(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Additional reporting by Steve Gutterman in Moscow; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel)

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