Vidin District Court ruled on October 7 to refuse a request to extradite Canadian-American businessman Len Homeniuk from Bulgaria to Kyrgyzstan, which had alleged that he was “involved in corruption”.
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 court in Vidin 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. Also taken into account was the problem of unequal treatment of accused in that country.
The Vidin court’s decision is subject to appeal within seven days in the Sofia Appeal Court. The Vidin court twice had extended the deadline for Kyrgyzstan to provide documentation to back up the allegations, while supporters of Homeniuk pointed out that when such documentation was provided, it was scant in comparison with the customarily detailed documentation filed in extradition cases.
Homenuik (68) was arrested in Bulgaria on July 27 on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice issued at the request of Kyrgyzstan. He had been travelling a river cruise holiday on the Danube with his family.
The international arrest warrant issued by the Kyrgyz government in September 2014 is in connection general allegations of “involvement in corruption.”
Those allegations relate to a 2003-2004 restructure of the Kumtor Gold Mine ownership where Kyrgyzstan traded its interest in the Kumtor Mine in exchange primarily for stock in Centerra Gold Inc., which was then listed on the Canadian TMX stock exchange as part of an initial public offering.
The restructuring was a large and important transaction to the Kyrgyz government — the Kumtor Gold Mine is a significant part of Kyrgyzstan’s economy. The restructuring took years to negotiate, involved teams of lawyers for each of the participants, included a number of international banks and development agencies, and was approved by a Decree of the Government of Kyrgyzstan, and signed into law by its president.
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.”
Local media quoted Homeniuk as saying that he was happy with the court’s decision and the outcome of the long process.
“I am innocent, there was never a bribe or any other form of corruption,” said Homeiuk, thanking the Bulgarian court for not complying with the request of a country that for many years has shown that there is no respect for the right to a fair trial and human rights”.