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Court Continues Prosecution of Russian Tycoon

The head of Russian Mirax construction group Sergei Polonsky seen during the Global Investment & Finance Forum in Moscow, Russia, Monday, March 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
PHNOM PENH - Preah Sihanouk provincial court is continuing to investigate a criminal case against Russian real estate investor Sergei Polonsky, who is accused of forcing six Cambodians to jump ship near an island off the coast in November, officials said Monday.

The six sailors dropped their official complaints after a reported compensation offer of $20,000, but the criminal case continues regardless, court officials said.

The six were summoned to the court Monday to explain why they dropped their complaints, and Polonsky and two other suspects remain in custody.

He is accused of intentional violence, for allegedly hitting one of the six sailors he had chartered to take him and two friends to a remote island off the coast in late December. He is also accused of threatening the boat captain with a knife and forcing the crew to jump overboard following an altercation. The crew were later rescued.

Ouch Sopheaktra, a lawyer for the six Cambodians, said the investigating judge summoned them to court Monday to ask why they were dropping their civil complaint.

Pheng Thourn, an employee of a friend of Polonsky who is close to the proceedings, told VOA Khmer the sailors had met together and decided to drop their complaints against the Russian. They have so far received $1,000 each to help pay for lawyers and the cost of fuel for their rescue, but are expecting a total of $20,000, he said.

The Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh continues to monitor the case. Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on Cambodian authorities to protect the rights of its citizens and to ensure they had access to lawyers and interpreters.

“Given the seriousness of the charges, we consider it necessary to conduct a thorough and objective investigation, clarification of all the circumstances of the incident,” the ministry said in a statement.