Russian extradition request to the UK collapses

Represented by Malcolm Hawkes, a Russian man has walked free after the CPS conceded it can no longer contest his appeal against extradition to Russia to serve a prison sentence for fraud. No reasons were given for the concession, but it follows the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the service of devastating expert evidence which wholly undermined any basis on which to trust Russian government assurances as to prison conditions.

While the UK government has yet to sever extradition relations with the Russian government, it has been urged to do so, inter alia, by the Defence Extradition Lawyers’ Forum (DELF). The UK has called for Russia’s suspension from access to Interpol’s systems, describing Russia’s actions as ‘a direct threat to the safety of individuals and to international law enforcement cooperation’. 

This case began with Mr. Ioskevich’s arrest in the UK in 2016. He contested extradition on multiple grounds, including the appalling prison conditions he feared he would be subjected to in Krasnodar. He insisted the fraud allegations against him were false, politically-motivated and instigated by a business rival.

The initial hearing of the case involved a controversial expert report and inspection of the nominated prisons in Krasnodar, during which the prison authorities put on rock concert for the expert’s benefit, ostensibly to demonstrate the prisoners’ fair treatment. Although this was obviously staged, the expert and the courts accepted the Russian government’s assurances as to Mr. Ioskevich’s treatment. The courts also rejected the submission that conditions for prisoner transport would amount to ill-treatment on the basis that it would only be ‘short occasional and minor’. The courts also agreed that the Russian government could be trusted, despite the Salisbury nerve-agent attack and a litany of breaches of international law.

However, Mr. Ioskevich was not, in fact extradited as he absconded in 2018. Following his arrest in 2021, he was able to adduce fresh expert evidence from Prof. Judith Pallot which thoroughly undermined the previous expert’s report: the so-called laudable discipline of the prisoners during the rock concert was likely achieved by threats from selected prisoners who enforce prison discipline using extreme violence.

Moreover, the prison monitoring bodies, such as they were, had since been stripped of any semblance of independence or impartiality and served as an arm of the state actively to conceal the systemic abuse of prisoners. This abuse was confirmed by harrowing prison officer bodycam footage, leaked online, of prisoners being raped, beaten and humiliated.

Meanwhile, in 2019 the European Court of Human Rights handed down a pilot judgment which confirmed the conditions of prisoner transport indeed breach Article 3: Tomov v Russia.

The Russian invasion and brutal prosecution of its war against Ukraine has doubtless undermined any sense of trust in the Russian government’s promises. In particular, given Krasnodar’s proximity to Ukraine, its prisons are likely to host thousands of Ukrainian prisoners, whether from the civilian or military populations which raises further serious questions about prison overcrowding and conditions of prisoner transport.

In Ioskevich v Russia, Malcolm was instructed by Giovanna Fiorentino and Ceylon Giles of Lansbury Worthington Solicitors.