MOSCOW Russian law enforcement officials on Friday sought the arrest of real estate businessman Sergei Polonsky, believed to be in Israel, to face trial over fraud charges.
The country's interior ministry asked a court to put Polonsky under arrest in absentia and requested that a procedure to extradite him should begin, a statement posted on the ministry's website said on Friday.
According to an interior ministry press release in June, Polonsky was charged in absentia with fraud relating to a property firm he founded which is accused of stealing more than 5.7 billion roubles ($172 million) from people who had prepaid for flats in a residential housing complex it was building.
"The investigative department of the Interior Ministry of Russia initiated a petition before the court in respect of ... Sergei Polonsky, who is accused of committing ... fraud ... to detain him, in absentia," the statement said.
"If the court approves the investigator's request, the process will start to extradite Polonsky to Russia."
Polonsky, worth $1.2 billion before the global financial crisis, was at the center of the recent case against media magnate Alexander Lebedev, who was charged with hooliganism for throwing a punch at Polonsky on a television show. The case, brought by Russia's investigative committee, saw Lebedev avoid a jail sentence but be ordered to do 150 hours of community service.
Polonsky has a visa to stay in Israel until September 27, the statement said, citing law enforcement authorities in Israel. It added Israeli authorities had asked Russia to inform them about its intentions in respect to Polonsky.
Earlier in the year, Polonsky was detained in Cambodia accused of assault and illegal detention after an incident on a boat, according to authorities in the country at the time. He was later freed.
A statement on a Facebook account which appears to be Sergei Polonsky's press office, said that Polonsky was disappointed with the decision by the interior ministry, and that he insisted on an objective investigation. He is ready to cooperate fully with investigators, the statement said.
Polonksy's lawyer Alexander Dobrovinsky was not immediately available for comment.
($1 = 33.0880 Russian roubles)
(Reporting by Megan Davies and Maria Kiselyova; Editing by David Evans)