French court rejects appeal to extradite Ukrainian billionaire Zhevago

KYIV (Reuters) – A French court rejected an appeal from the Ukrainian government and ruled that Ukrainian billionaire Kostyantyn Zhevago should not be extradited over accusations of embezzlement, a court spokesperson said on Friday.

Zhevago, who controls London-listed iron pellet producer Ferrexpo, was arrested at a French ski resort in December 2022 at the request of Ukraine, which wants him for alleged embezzlement involving a now-collapsed bank.

Zhevago has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

“(The court) concludes that the petitioning state (Ukraine) is not able to guarantee that Mr. Zhevago will be tried by a court that can ensure¬†fundamental procedural guarantees and protection of the defence rights,” said a court verdict obtained by Reuters.

Ukraine issued an arrest warrant in 2019 for Zhevago, 49, who served in parliament from 1998 to 2019, with an international arrest warrant following in 2021.

“My commitment to refuting the baseless allegations made against me in Ukraine remains unwavering,” Zhevago said in a statement.

“As soon as it becomes feasible within the Ukrainian jurisdiction, I will make every effort to challenge the accusations against me through all legal channels.”

Zhevago was arrested in the French ski resort of Courchevel after a request from Ukrainian prosecutors seeking his extradition relating to the collapse of “Finance and Credit” bank back in 2015. Zhevago had been released on bail for 1 million euros ($1.1 million).

The prosecutors also took action in Ukrainian courts to obtain more than $1 billion in damages from Zhevago and have frozen shares held by Ferrexpo, in its three Ukrainian subsidiaries. Ferrexpo is also in a dispute with the Ukrainian government over royalty payments.

(Reporting by Oliver Hirt and Juliette Jabhiro; writing by Olena Harmash; editing by Mark Heinrich)