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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05VILNIUS949 2005-09-09 15:38:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
Cable title:  

VILNIUS COURT DECIDES TO EXTRADITE BANKER TO RUSSIA

Tags:   PGOV ENRG EFIN KCRM KJUS PHUM LH RS 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000949 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/NB, EUR/RUS, H

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/08/2015
TAGS: PGOV ENRG EFIN KCRM KJUS PHUM LH RS
SUBJECT: VILNIUS COURT DECIDES TO EXTRADITE BANKER TO RUSSIA


Classified By: Economic Officer Scott Woodard for reasons 1.4 (b) and (
d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: The Vilnius District Court decided on
September 8 to extradite to Russia Igor Babenko, the manager
of the Stavropol branch of Yukos-owned Menatep Bank.
Lithuanian authorities had arrested Babenko on July 1 in
response to Russia's extradition request. Russian
prosecutors accuse Babenko of misusing at least USD 12
million of Menatep funds. Whether or not the Russian
government is targeting Babenko because of his connections to
Yukos, the Lithuanian Prosecutor's office maintains that the
case against Babenko is strong. END SUMMARY.



--------------------------


BABENKO'S ARREST


--------------------------





2. (U) Lithuanian officials arrested Igor Babenko, manager of
the Stavropol office of the Yukos-owned bank Menatep Sankt
Peterburg, in Vilnius on July 1. The Russian government had
requested Babenko's arrest and extradition to Russia, on June
30, accusing Babenko of "squandering" more than LTL 33
million (USD 12 million) from the Russian companies Menatep
and Stavropolkrajgaz over a three-year period. The original
arrest warrant authorized a 38-day detention, which the court
of first instance in Vilnius on August 5 extended to
September 8. The Vilnius district court rejected Babenko,s
appeal of the extension.



3. (U) The Prosecutor General's office conducted an
investigation of the charges in the GOR,s request for
extradition. On August 30, Laima Cekeliene, Chief Prosecutor
in the Department of International Relations and Legal
Assistant of the Prosecutor General,s Office, told us that
the Babenko extradition is a strictly criminal case, with no
relation to either Yukos or Khodorkovsky. She insisted that
the case against Babenko is strong.



4. (C) The resident Estonian Ambassador, in contrast, opined
to the Ambassador that the Babenko extradition is an instance
of selective prosecution and a GOR attempt both to break
Yukos and to reassert control over the Baltics. He suspects
that Russia was applying pressure on the Prime Minister to
ensure compliance with the extradition request and that
politics, rather than law, inform the decision. Babenko's
lawyer told the press that his client is guilty only of
having links to Yukos and that the case has "clear political
overtones."



5. (U) The Prosecutor General,s Office transferred the
Babenko extradition documents to the Vilnius District Court
on September 6. The Court decided on September 8 to
extradite Babenko, concluding that Russian officials had
provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Babenko
likely violated Russian law. Babenko's lawyer told the press
that he will appeal the court's decision. The law requires
him to file the appeal within seven days. The Court also
extended Babenko's detention for another month, allowing him
to remain in Vilnius for the time being.



6. (U) Editorials in local media decry the decision to
extradite Babenko as caving to Russian pressure. Some
speculate about a possible deal in the works whereby Russia
would finally grant Lithuania,s request to extradite
suspects in the 1991 murder of seven Lithuanian border
guards, which Russia has ignored for several years.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





7. (C) While we cannot rule out the possibility that the
Russian government is targeting Babenko because of his
connections to Yukos, this does not speak one way or another
to his innocence. The Medininkiai border guard case and
other possible quid pro quos notwithstanding, this is not the
first time Lithuania has acceded to Russian extradition
requests. Post is aware of at least three cases in the past
decade in which Lithuania has extradited individuals to
Russia. (Russia has also returned the favor on occasion.)
The Lithuanian judicial system appears to have taken the
extradition request at face value, and set in motion the
Lithuanian-born Babenko's imminent return to Russia.
MULL