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09 Jun 2015

Andrew Smith’s comments on UK-Russia extradition cases published in the FT

Lawyers see breakthrough in UK-Russia extradition cases

A court ruling has been hailed by lawyers as signalling a thaw in relations between the UK and Russia on extradition.

Although last month’s decision, which was not reported at the time, blocked a request to extradite a Ukrainian to Russia, lawyers now believe it represents a shift in thinking because the judge was prepared to accept assurances from Russia about prison conditions

Judge Howard Riddle, senior district judge at Westminster magistrates’ court, declined the request from the Russian Federation to extradite Igor Valerievich Kononko to face allegations of fraud and forgery relating to BTA, the Kazakh bank.

The judge made his decision after agreeing with Mr Kononko’s legal team that he might not receive a fair trial in Moscow.

Andrew Smith, extradition specialist and partner at law firm Corker Binning, said it was significant that the judge held that he had no reason to consider that Russia’s undertakings were given in bad faith.

“Although the court’s conclusion on Russia’s prisons was a qualified one, it nonetheless represents a significant breakthrough for Russia,” he said.

“The UK-Russian extradition relationship is slowly thawing. It will only be a matter of time before Russia is successful in extraditing an individual from the UK,” he added.

He said that since 2003 there had been around 20 extradition requests from Russia, often relating to powerful businessmen who had fled to London after falling foul of President Putin’s regime.

“Each contested case has resulted in extradition being refused or the request being withdrawn,” he said.

“The common thread in these decisions was the recognition that Russia’s prison estate, particularly its remand prisons, was so poor that there was a real risk that the person sought would suffer inhuman and degrading treatment if extradited,” he said.

He suggested that Russians who were the subject of a criminal investigation in their homeland, seek advice about whether they should be doing anything now to pre-empt an extradition request.

If there is a successful extradition case in the near future, then Russia could seek to reactivate past cases in which requests had failed, he said.

Read the full article on the FT here.