PRAGUE, Czech Republic—Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek tried to physically block the extradition of Russian businessman Alexey Torubarov by ordering a tank truck to block the airplane at the Vaclav Havel’s Airport in Prague on May 2. The Finance Ministry issued its first official statement on the incident this week.
Torubarov is accused of blackmailing a secret service officer and of fraud in Russia; an international arrest warrant was issued. He was put into custody in Czech Republic, where he asked for asylum, claiming innocence.
But, according to local paper Lidové Noviny, Minister of Justice Pavel Blažek decided to extradite him, even though the asylum procedure had not been completed. The paper further states that Czech ministers of finance, foreign affairs, transportation, and the interior went on to stop the extradition on their own.
While the incident took place on May 2, it was only on May 27 that the Finance Ministry issued an official statement. Because the airport is under the authority of the ministry, Kalousek was able to order the airport staff to block the airplane with Torubarov aboard. The staff blocked the plane with a tank truck on the runway.
“Everything the staff did was my personal responsibility. It would be unfair to hold anyone else accountable,” Kalousek told news site iDnes.cz. He further explained his actions by saying he wanted to prevent an international scandal.
But in the end, the airplane did take off. The family of Torubarov filed a lawsuit against Blažek for ordering the extradition before the request for the asylum was either denied or granted.
Blažek has declined to comment on his decision, saying only that he didn’t consider the extradition a mistake.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Torubarov expressed concerns for his life should he return to Russia as early as the end of last year, saying: “Those criminals are at liberty and preparing my death.”
After he moved to Czech Republic with his family, he was told by his friends that men hired by a criminal organization from Volgograd were looking for him in the Czech capital. Credibility was added to his claims last year when he was attacked with a knife while in custody in Austria. The Austrian government had put him in custody on the grounds of the international arrest warrant, but didn’t extradite him to Russia.