France seeks tycoon's extradition from Switzerland

Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — France has asked Switzerland to extradite a wealthy Israeli businessman wanted in connection with an arms trafficking scandal, Swiss officials said Wednesday.

Arkady Gaydamak was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison by a French court in 2009, for masterminding the trafficking of Soviet-made weapons to Angola during its civil war in the 1990s. His sentence was reduced on appeal in 2011 to three years' imprisonment for laundering assets obtained through tax fraud.

Gaydamak, who also holds French citizenship, was arrested Nov. 19 in Zurich on a separate matter relating to a financial dispute with former French football international Luis Fernandez, Geneva prosecutors said.

The Soviet-born businessman is being held on suspicion of "breach of trust" for failing to pay 400,000 euros ($544,000) he allegedly owed Fernandez, who between 2005 and 2006 managed Israeli club Beitar Jerusalem, which was owned by Gaydamak at the time, prosecutors said in a statement.

At a hearing Tuesday, Gaydamak asked to be released on bail and claimed diplomatic immunity. It was unclear which country Gaydamak claimed to be a diplomat for.

French prosecutors said in 2009 that Gaydamak and others — including several members of France's political elite — funneled weapons worth $793 million to Angola's former Marxist rebels between 1993 and 2000.