Written by TCA
BISHKEK (TCA) — A district court in Bulgaria ruled on October 7 to refuse a request to extradite Canadian-American businessman Len Homeniuk from Bulgaria to Kyrgyzstan, The Sofia Globe reported.
Homenuik (68), former Centerra Gold CEO, was arrested in Bulgaria on July 27 on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice issued at the request of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan's prosecutor-general had requested Homeniuk's detention on embezzlement charges related to the Kumtor gold project in Kyrgyzstan.
Owned by Centerra Gold, the Kumtor gold mine is the largest gold mine in Kyrgyzstan. Centerra is partly owned by the government of Kyrgyzstan.
Homeniuk served as President and CEO of Centerra Gold from 2004 to 2008.
Centerra said after Homeniuk's arrest that the detention appeared to be related to claims by the Kyrgyz Republic authorities of alleged improper transactions with Kyrgyz officials in connection with the restructuring of the Kumtor project in the 2003-2004 time period. "Centerra has repeatedly publicly stated that it is not aware of any valid basis for these allegations, which it believes to be entirely unfounded. Centerra has repeatedly requested information from Kyrgyz Republic authorities as to the factual basis for the allegations but such information has not been provided to it," the company's statement said.
The extradition request by Kyrgyzstan was seen by Homeniuk's supporters, including more than 1000 that signed a petition against the attempted extradition, as an attempt by the government in that country to exercise undue leverage in financial dealings involving the mining firm he had worked for, The Sofia Globe reported.
The Bulgarian court said that there was no bilateral extradition treaty between Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan. It added that Kyrgyz Supreme Public Prosecutor had failed to indicate whether the statute of limitations on the offence had expired.
The charges against Homeniuk "ultimately come down to a government which is unhappy with a legitimate deal made by a previous government", campaigners on his behalf said earlier.
"In trying to restructure that deal, they are now calling it corrupt and want to apply as much leverage as possible against Centerra and, perhaps, improve their position in an international arbitration if they decide to nationalise the Kumtor mine."
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