court gavel 88.
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The Justice ministries of Israel and Russia cannot agree on whether Israel acknowledged requests by the Russian state prosecution to extradite "oligarch" Leonid Nevzlin, according to a letter from the Russian authorities released on Wednesday.
The letter was addressed to journalist Yuli Nudelman, who petitioned the High Court of Justice recently, calling on the state to rescind Nevzlin's citizenship and extradite him to Russia, where a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
He is wanted on charges of having committed serious crimes such as arranging murders and committing acts of fraud and tax evasion. Nevzlin was a former head of the giant oil company Yukos, which was established in 1993 after the fall of Communism and was responsible for 20 percent of Russia's oil output.
In 2004, the government charged the company with tax evasion. Its executives were either arrested, or, like Nevzlin, fled the country, several of them to Israel.
In its response to Nudelman's petition, the state wrote on February 28 that "after [the government] reaches a final decision on the request, the Russian prosecutor will be notified, as is customary. An interim reply was sent to the Russian prosecution several months ago."
But the Russian prosecution said it had not received such a letter. "At this moment, the general prosecution of the Russian Federation does not have any information of any kind regarding statements conveyed by authorized bodies in Israel to it," wrote the deputy head of the department of information and social relations of the Russian state prosecution, Y.M. Smolina.
He added that because it had not received a reply from Israel, the prosecution wrote again on February 28 to inquire about Israel's handling of the request.
The Justice Ministry, however, continued to maintain that it had replied to the Russian request several months ago. "The State Attorney's Office interim reply was sent to the Russian prosecution on October 9, 2005," a spokesperson said in response to a query by The Jerusalem Post.
In its statement to the court, the Justice Ministry also said that the Russian request to extradite Nevzlin was "theoretical," because in accordance with a change in Russian law, Russia allegedly could no longer promise in advance that if Nevzlin - an Israeli citizen and resident - were extradited to Russia and convicted there, he would be able to serve his sentence in Israel, as required by Israeli law.
The Russian official denied the Israeli statement, saying the issue had not been discussed between the two countries and that the Russian criminal code did provide for allowing foreigners to serve their sentences in their home countries.