After initially being released by Bulgarian authorities, Free Russia organisation founder Nikolai Koblyakov – for whom Moscow is seeking extradition on charges he rejects as politically motivated – has been placed under house arrest by Sofia City Court.
The court handed down the order on September 1 following an application by the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office for Koblyakov to be remanded in custody pending the outcome of the extradition application by Russia.
Koblyakov, a dual Russian and French national, was taken into custody on July 29 2014 after arriving at Sofia Airport.
Russia had issued an international arrest request via Interpol, alleging that Koblyakov had stolen property worth more than 42 million roubles.
On August 1, Sofia City Court released Koblyakov from custody, saying that his alleged offences were not crimes under Bulgaria’s Penal Code and this could be a reason for a court to refuse Russia’s request for his extradition.
But on September 1, the court placed him under house arrest after prosecutors argued that his dual citizenships could make it possible for him to evade justice.
After the court declined to order him remanded into custody and imposed the lesser measure of house arrest, prosecutors said that they would not object, because this would still ensure that he would be present for the extradition application proceedings.
Koblyakov, who has said before the charges against him have been trumped-up because of his opposition to the Putin regime, said on September 1 that there was a person who was trying to impersonate him to incriminate him. He said that his friends had received e-mails on his behalf that he could not have written, and he suspected that these e-mails were the work of Russia’s special services.
He told the court that he very much liked Bulgaria and had come to the country for the first time to develop his construction business. He said that he had a project that would contribute to Bulgaria’s economic growth.
It was in his own interest not to seek to abscond, Koblyakov said.