Man punched by Lebedev arrested in Cambodia on hostage charge

Sergei Polonsky, the Russian businessman who was punched on TV by The Independent‘s owner, Alexander Lebedev, has been arrested in Cambodia.

He has been accused, along with two of his Russian friends, of holding six sailors hostage and threatening them with violence.

According to two reports (here and here) they were arrested on Monday after allegedly threatening the sailors with knives while they were ferrying them from an island. The six men claim they were taken hostage and, after being locked up in a cabin, were then forced to jump overboard.

RIA Novosti reports a Russian diplomat in the Cambodian embassy, Pavel Seskanov, as saying Polonsky and the other two – Konstantin Baglay and Alexander Karachinsky – have been charged with false imprisonment and inflicting or threatening injuries. The charges are said to carry jail terms up to three years.

The news may well hearten Lebedev because Polonsky is the main prosecution witness against him. He was charged with hooliganism and battery after punching property developer Polonsky in the face during a Russian TV show in September 2011.

Lebedev has claimed that the charges are politically motivated. He said at the time of the TV scuffle that he had reacted to Polonsky’s threatening manner towards him. If found guilty, he could go to prison for five years.

In November last year, Lebedev announced that he was seeking a minority partner for his British media holdings, which include the Independent titles and the London Evening Standard, due to forecasts of continuing losses.

Though he has been reported to be worth $1.1bn, he said his chief businesses – an airline and a bank – would make losses in 2012.

Sources: RT/The Voice of Russia/RIA Novosti/The Guardian (1), (2), (3)

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