By Jenna Etheridge
No court date has been set following the recent arrest of controversial businessman Zunaid Moti, as his legal team await a decision by German authorities.
“Argument was forwarded to them and we are awaiting a decision,” lawyer Ulrich Roux said on Sunday.
In a statement on Saturday evening, Roux said Moti was placed under provisional arrest when he attempted to leave the country through Munich airport a week ago.
This followed a notice by Russian authorities.
Moti is accused of defrauding Russian citizen Alibek Issaev out of several million rand in an alleged bogus mining deal. The alleged incident took place in Lebanon in 2013.
It is understood that he forwarded evidence to authorities to show he had never set foot in Lebanon in the first place.
He is also accused of stealing a rare R500-million pink diamond.
“His detention comes pursuant to a diffusion notice issued by Russian authorities on 24 January 2018, which notice has not been authorised and vetted by Interpol’s general secretariat.”
An Interpol “red notice”, which shows that a person is wanted based on an arrest warrant or equivalent judicial decision, was previously issued for Moti.
Roux said Moti received official documents that there was no “red notice”, and that his name was not included on searches of outstanding warrants.
Roux said that since August 2017, Moti has been subject to a “litany of spurious and fraudulent claims” made by a member of the “Russian Mafia”, who was currently living in Dubai.
He said there was a directive that all data on Moti on Interpol’s system was to be blocked, but the Russian notice “circumvented” that.
“The alleged charges that form the basis of the diffusion notice are evidently a complete fabrication and part of a continued stratagem adopted by the Russian Mafia to extort payment by Mr Moti’s of substantial sums of money.
This is not the first time that claims have been made of Russian figures using Interpol to pursue their own agenda.
In May, Bill Browder, a human rights activist and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was briefly arrested while in Spain to testify about alleged corrupt activities by the Russian government.
He tweeted about the arrest at the time, saying it was apparently based on a Russian Interpol arrest warrant.
He subsequently tweeted: “Good news. Spanish National Police just released me after Interpol General Secretary in Lyon advised them not to honor the new Russian Interpol Red Notice. This is the 6th time that Russia has abused Interpol in my case”.
Interpol denied to the Atlantic that it had ever issued a red notice, saying that it repeatedly rejected Russian requests to do so because it deemed them to be politically motivated.
A diffusion notice was circulated for Browder in October 2017 but the General Secretariat later found it to be non-compliant.
The same report stated that Interpol asked the notice to be removed from national databases but had no way to enforce compliance.
The New York Times reported in 2016 about a similar diffusion notice for Nikita Kulachenkov, a Russian forensic accountant fighting corruption, who fled to Lithuania.
He spent a few weeks in a Cypriot prison before the country refused a request to send him to Russia to stand trial.