Ukrainian billionaire Zhevago's French extradition hearing set for Jan 19

  • World
  • Thursday, 05 Jan 2023

Police officers stand outside the room of the court of appeals after the arriving of the billionaire Kostyantyn Zhevago, in Chambery, France, January 5, 2023. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

CHAMBERY, France (Reuters) -A French court on Thursday postponed to Jan. 19 a hearing on whether to extradite Ukrainian billionaire Kostyantyn Zhevago to his home country.

The businessman, who controls London-listed iron pellet producer Ferrexpo, is one of Ukraine's richest men. He was arrested and detained in France in late December at Ukraine's request.

At the start of the hearing, the court in Chambery heard his lawyers' plea that the proceedings be held behind closed doors - a request the judges rejected after brief deliberation.

His lawyers, as well as the public prosecutor, then asked for the hearing to be postponed. Both sides said they needed more time to examine the case, which the judges accepted.

Zhevagos' lawyer, François Zimeray, said he would fight the extradition request.

The court was still to decide whether Zhevago should stay behind bars in the meantime.

Ukraine's state bureau of investigation DBR has said the billionaire was wanted on suspicion of embezzlement and money-laundering linked to the disappearance of $113 million from the now bankrupt lender Finance & Credit Bank.

Zhevago, who served in the Ukrainian parliament from 1998 to 2019, primarily as an independent, has denied any wrongdoing.

Zimeray had earlier argued that the hearing should be held behind closed doors "to shelter someone who had never been incarcerated, who did not expect to be, otherwise he would not have come to our territory".

The case comes amid Ukraine's broader efforts to clean up its oligarch-dominated economy. Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, a small group of elites have dominated its political system and economy. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pledged to reduce oligarchs' role in the economy.

Monthly publication Forbes Ukraine has estimated Zhevago's wealth at $2.4 billion in 2021. The publication estimated Zhevago wealth at $1.4 billion at the end of 2022.

Ukraine issued an arrest warrant for Zhevago in 2019, with an international warrant following in 2021.

(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro in Chambery and Olena Harmash in Kyiv; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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