x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE and Russia agree to extradition details

Tens of thousands of Russian immigrants have found financial success in the UAE, but they will no longer be able to find refuge from the law.

Tens of thousands of Russian immigrants have found opportunity and financial success in the UAE, but they will no longer be able to find refuge from the law, according to an extradition treaty drafted last week. Nationals of either country in their own homeland would not be extradited - so Russians wanted by the UAE who are at large in Russia could not be sent to the Emirates for trial.

However, the agreement would require them to be prosecuted in their native country. "The whole point is to ensure justice is carried out, either here or there," Abdul Rahman al Baloushi, the director of international co-operation at the Ministry of Justice. The agreement is the product of two years' worth of negotiations. Talks began when the Russian government contacted Abu Dhabi over concerns that Russians could take advantage of the lucrative business climate in the Emirates to conduct shady deals outside the reach of their homeland's legal system.

The second round of talks was held last week in Abu Dhabi with representatives from the Russian Embassy and Russia's ministry of justice. "The negotiations have since been developed into three agreements," said Mr al Baloushi. "First we have the extradition treaty. Second, an agreement to assist in criminal prosecutions. The third is a civil agreement on trade issues." Although there are no official figures on the Russian population of the UAE, the embassy's conservative estimate is 12,000. Russian Home, an organisation that connects Russians living here, estimates that there are 20,000 to 30,000 across the Emirates. The number of Emiratis living in Russia is unknown; liberal figures are below 500.

But Vladimir Kozhevnikov, the trade commissioner at the Russian Embassy, who was present at last week's signing, said the agreement was mutually beneficial. "We cannot measure this agreement with figures," Mr Kozhevnikov said. "What we are concerned about is the law and the implementation of the law. If you compare the population of Russia, per capita, with the number of Russians living here, it is a fraction of the population. This is a legal question, not an economic question."

Although the agreement was not precipitated by any specific incident, it could have implications for several major cases. The Chechen warlord Sulim Yamadayev was assassinated in March in the car park under his flat in Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai. The chief of Dubai Police, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, alleged the involvement of Adam Delimkhanov, a Russian member of parliament and former Chechen deputy prime minster.

Dubai sought his extradition to be tried in the UAE. Mr Delimkhanov denied any wrongdoing, and the Russians refused his extradition. Under the agreement, Dubai Police would hand over their information and evidence in the case, and Russian authorities would be required to prosecute Mr Delimkhanov for the crimes of which he is accused in the UAE. "Under the draft extradition agreement between the UAE and Russia, neither country would extradite its own citizens," Mr al Baloushi said.

"This is standard agreement for most extradition treaties between [the UAE] and other countries." But if a Russian is living in the UAE while wanted in his home country, the agreement would require the UAE to extradite him to Moscow. Victor Bout, accused by several governments of being an arms dealer, operated several cargo businesses from Sharjah. He is believed to have supplied arms to the former Liberian president Charles Taylor, and to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, in defiance of arms embargoes.

Although he was arrested in Bangkok, he and his family lived in the UAE from 1993 to 2000. Both the US and Russia have sought his extradition. A Thai court denied his extradition to the US on August 11. Russia is still seeking his return to Moscow. If he were to return to the UAE, he could be extradited under the agreement. Ratification talks are planned for April in Moscow. myoussef@thenational.ae