Fugitive businessman who claims he is unable to attend Lebedev trial as he cannot leave Cambodia ‘is filmed in Israel’
The fugitive businessman whose evidence could see media tycoon Alexander Lebedev jailed for up to five years has been filmed in Israel, it was claimed today.
Property mogul Sergei Polonsky, 40, was caught on camera alongside a woman on a balcony in a prestigious Tel Aviv district, according to a Russian TV channel.
Polonsky, who is himself wanted in Russia over allegations of a massive property fraud, was also filmed entering an apartment block, said reports.
Runaway witness: A grab from the footage which allegedly shows fugitive Russian property tycoon Sergei Polonsky hanging out with an unknown woman on a balcony in an upmarket district of Tel Aviv, Israel
The sighting could have a dramatic impact on Mr Lebedev’s ongoing trial in Moscow.
Polonsky’s lawyers had told the judge that he cannot give evidence in person because he is on bail in Cambodia and unable to leave the country.
Lebedev – whose son Evgeny owns the Evening Standard and the Independent titles – denies a charge of ‘hooliganism motivated by political hatred’ over a fracas during a TV talk show when he appeared to twice punch Mr Polonsky.
Lebedev, 53, strongly disputes any political motive, arguing that he was defending himself.
The trial resumes on Friday in Moscow but the sighting of Polonsky in Israel gives it a sensational new twist, especially if the judge accepts calls by Lebedev’s legal team that the star witness should now travel to the Russian capital and give evidence in person.
Fast one pulled? Lawyers for Polonksy, purportedly shown again here, had told the judge in Alexander Lebedev’s trial he cannot give evidence in person as he is on bail in Cambodia and unable to leave the country
Some analysts see Lebedev’s trial as politically motivated, possibly linked to his ownership of Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Polonsky is also on Russia’s federal wanted list over a £121million fraud case in which he and others are accused of embezzling money belonging to investors in a planned elite residential complex in Moscow.
The TV footage apparently obtained by Israeli channel 9 was also screened on several Russian channels. If confirmed, it is also likely to anger the Cambodian authorities.
Lebedev, pictured left, denies a charge of ‘hooliganism motivated by political hatred’ over a fracas during a TV talk show when he appeared to twice punch Polonsky, who is seen right in a picture posted on his Twitter feed
Polonsky is under investigation in the country over allegations he kidnapped a group of sailors and threatened them with a knife.
Keo Vanthan, director of Interpol at Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, said Polonsky’s criminal trial in the country must take precedence over any other legal action.
He was freed on bail in April on the understanding he did not leave Cambodia.
‘He has to face legal action in Cambodia,’ he said.
There have been persistent reports suggesting Polonsky had left the country, possibly on a diplomatic plane, and travelled to Switzerland and Luxembourg before going to Israel.
But the TV pictures are the clearest evidence so far that he is in Israel.
Polonsky’s Russian lawyer Diana Tatosova appeared shocked by the TV pictures and said today: ‘I have no comments. I have not contacted with my client yet. I can not comment [on] this.’