Viewing cable 05VILNIUS949
Title: VILNIUS COURT DECIDES TO EXTRADITE BANKER TO RUSSIA

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05VILNIUS9492005-09-09 15:38:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000949 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/NB, EUR/RUS, H 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/08/2015 
TAGS: PGOV ENRG EFIN KCRM KJUS PHUM LH RS
SUBJECT: VILNIUS COURT DECIDES TO EXTRADITE BANKER TO RUSSIA 
 
 
Classified By: Economic Officer Scott Woodard for reasons 1.4 (b) and ( 
d) 
 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY:  The Vilnius District Court decided on 
September 8 to extradite to Russia Igor Babenko, the manager 
of the Stavropol branch of Yukos-owned Menatep Bank. 
Lithuanian authorities had arrested Babenko on July 1 in 
response to Russia's extradition request.  Russian 
prosecutors accuse Babenko of misusing at least USD 12 
million of Menatep funds.  Whether or not the Russian 
government is targeting Babenko because of his connections to 
Yukos, the Lithuanian Prosecutor's office maintains that the 
case against Babenko is strong.   END SUMMARY. 
 
---------------- 
BABENKO'S ARREST 
---------------- 
 
¶2. (U) Lithuanian officials arrested Igor Babenko, manager of 
the Stavropol office of the Yukos-owned bank Menatep Sankt 
Peterburg, in Vilnius on July 1.  The Russian government had 
requested Babenko's arrest and extradition to Russia, on June 
30, accusing Babenko of "squandering" more than LTL 33 
million (USD 12 million) from the Russian companies Menatep 
and Stavropolkrajgaz over a three-year period.  The original 
arrest warrant authorized a 38-day detention, which the court 
of first instance in Vilnius on August 5 extended to 
September 8.  The Vilnius district court rejected Babenko,s 
appeal of the extension. 
 
¶3. (U) The Prosecutor General's office conducted an 
investigation of the charges in the GOR,s request for 
extradition.  On August 30, Laima Cekeliene, Chief Prosecutor 
in the Department of International Relations and Legal 
Assistant of the Prosecutor General,s Office, told us that 
the Babenko extradition is a strictly criminal case, with no 
relation to either Yukos or Khodorkovsky.  She insisted that 
the case against Babenko is strong. 
 
¶4. (C) The resident Estonian Ambassador, in contrast, opined 
to the Ambassador that the Babenko extradition is an instance 
of selective prosecution and a GOR attempt both to break 
Yukos and to reassert control over the Baltics.  He suspects 
that Russia was applying pressure on the Prime Minister to 
ensure compliance with the extradition request and that 
politics, rather than law, inform the decision.  Babenko's 
lawyer told the press that his client is guilty only of 
having links to Yukos and that the case has "clear political 
overtones." 
 
¶5. (U) The Prosecutor General,s Office transferred the 
Babenko extradition documents to the Vilnius District Court 
on September 6.  The Court decided on September 8 to 
extradite Babenko, concluding that Russian officials had 
provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Babenko 
likely violated Russian law.  Babenko's lawyer told the press 
that he will appeal the court's decision.  The law requires 
him to file the appeal within seven days.  The Court also 
extended Babenko's detention for another month, allowing him 
to remain in Vilnius for the time being. 
 
¶6. (U) Editorials in local media decry the decision to 
extradite Babenko as caving to Russian pressure.  Some 
speculate about a possible deal in the works whereby Russia 
would finally grant Lithuania,s request to extradite 
suspects in the 1991 murder of seven Lithuanian border 
guards, which Russia has ignored for several years. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
¶7. (C) While we cannot rule out the possibility that the 
Russian government is targeting Babenko because of his 
connections to Yukos, this does not speak one way or another 
to his innocence.  The Medininkiai border guard case and 
other possible quid pro quos notwithstanding, this is not the 
first time Lithuania has acceded to Russian extradition 
requests.  Post is aware of at least three cases in the past 
decade in which Lithuania has extradited individuals to 
Russia.  (Russia has also returned the favor on occasion.) 
The Lithuanian judicial system appears to have taken the 
extradition request at face value, and set in motion the 
Lithuanian-born Babenko's imminent return to Russia. 
MULL