The prosecutor’s office is in favor of the extradition of Ukrainian businessman Zhvago

“Off-track judicial” for his lawyers, a “fundamental” guarantee of a fair trial for the prosecution: the extradition of wealthy Ukrainian businessman and former deputy Kostyantin Zhvago presented two completely different cases on Thursday before the Chamber Court of Appeal gave rise to analysis.

Arrested on 28 December in Courchevel (Savoie), the owner of the mining group Fairexpo, who appeared free under judicial supervision, has been accused by the authorities of his country of embezzling $113 million from his bank, Finance and Credit Bank .

The hearing of the case was adjourned till March 30.

Mr. Zivago spoke quickly, at the end of the hearing, of how much he believed “in French justice.”

By that time, in dark jeans and a green polo shirt, he had heard Solicitor General Richard Palan assure the investigation room that “there was no ground to refuse extradition”.

In support of his indictment, the latter specifically affirmed that “part of Ukraine” was not in a state of “conflict of intensity” that would “allow Mr. Zhivago to be deported back to his country.”

How to consider such a hypothesis when the French foreign ministry, on its website, says “the whole country is at war”, retorted Jessica Finlay, one of Mr Jivago’s three advisers. And to add: “It is clear that, while the country is being bombed, justice does not work” and that in these situations, “it is not the prisoners that we take care of first”.

Nor, in the eyes of the attorney general, is there any question of accepting the idea that Mr. Zvego will only be a victim of settling political scores, a former deputy – sometimes as an independent, sometimes in the camp of former prime minister Yulia. Tymoshenko’s – already confirmed during the first hearing on 5 January.

“For politicians, everything is political! They exclude the possibility that they have been caught with their fingers in the jam jar and it may be a question of common law offence”, launched Mr. Pallan.

In contrast to François Zimray, another adviser to Mr. Zivago, common law reason is “always” that by which one “makes political reason” and one “purifies”. He specifically seeks evidence of this in the judicial “calendar”: the announcement of the initiation of proceedings against his client came on the same day as his candidacy for a new mandate as a deputy in his constituency of Poltava (Middle-East). .

– “Off-track judicial” –

The opposition has also crystallized over judicial guarantees that Ukraine will provide on the fairness of the trial or on the conditions of detention.

“We will tell you that Ukraine is a state that cannot be attacked at the judicial level, that cannot be trusted. But condemning a state in general is always risky. I will remind you that Ukraine is still a member of the European Conference.” On human rights!” argued Mr. Pallan. Except that Ukraine suspended the 1957 European Convention on Extradition in April 2022 because it could no longer guarantee it, explained Etienne Arnaud, another lawyer for Mr. Zvago. How then “to apply a convention which the applicant, Ukraine, cannot apply in return?”.

Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Zvyago at the Chambery Court of Appeal on March 16, 2023 (AFP – Jeff Pachoud)

“As long as there is martial law in Ukraine, we cannot respect the law”, also hammered Mee Finlay.

Another point of concern for lawyers: the possible detention conditions in sometimes “filthy” prisons, which have been the subject of numerous condemnations by the European Court of Human Rights and NGOs. On this topic, he did not fail to request the public prosecutor’s office from the French Embassy in Kiev on the situation in prisons in Ukraine, which according to him would provide a positive answer on guarantees.

To deliver Mr Jivago is to risk a “legal off-track”, Mr Zimre summarized, in a room where litigation over mountain accidents is routinely dealt with. The war in Ukraine “calls for all our support, but not all our blindness”.

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