EVEN as the World Cup got under way in Russia this week, a Scottish sheriff fired off a blazing condemnation of the country's justice system while rejecting a bid to extradite a former adviser to Vladimir Putin.

Sheriff Nigel Ross refused to send Dr Alexander Alexandrovich Shapovalov back to St Petersburg, where he fears he would be killed.

Russia had made two requests for Shapovalov to be forcibly returned to the city, where he faces 10 years in jail on what the exiled father-of-two says were trumped-up charges.

Shapovalov, the former director general of the Scientific Centre of Applied Chemistry in St Petersburg, who was once an adviser to the president, will now be allowed to stay at his home in Lochaber which he shares with his partner and their two children, one of whom has Down syndrome.

Shapovalov had given evidence to the Extradition Court at Edinburgh Sheriff Court that people with links to Putin wanted him dead. Sheriff Ross also noted that the Russian security service, the FSB, had been in “conflict” with Shapovalov, though it was the Russian police who had arrested him.

The Sheriff recorded that in August 2015, following a trial lasting approximately one year, and after two years’ house arrest, Shapovalov was sentenced at the Primorsky District Court of St Petersburg to 10 years imprisonment, later reduced by two months on appeal, for a fraud totalling £40,663.

Sheriff Ross wrote: “He was not there to hear it. One week pre-viously he had heard the prosecutor ask for conviction and a sentence of nine years’ imprisonment. He lost faith that he would be acquitted of the offences, of which he maintains innocence, or receive a just sentence, and fled the jurisdiction. He arrived in Scotland later in 2015 where he has lived since.”

The court had been told that Shapovalov took up his former position in 2009 but found the institute, which employs 25,000 engineers and scientists, to be in “very bad shape”.

He said he discovered that an assistant director was using the centre’s money to buy properties, adding: “When I found this out, I said ‘this is unacceptable’. He decided to bankrupt our institution and I started criminal proceedings.”

Shapovalov claimed that he was threatened by figures with links to Putin. He was arrested and held at a police station for 36 hours and was told that he would be charged with a serious offence.

Sheriff Ross ruled extraditing Shapovalov would be in breach of his human rights and found that Russia had abused the court process as the fraud charges were unfounded.

He accepted Shapovalov would face an unfair prosecution, possible torture and inhuman conditions in the Russian prison system.

He wrote: “I accept the evidence led on behalf of Dr Shapovalov as credible and reliable.

“The evidence for the Russian Federation was poor quality, inadequate and misdirected, and I reject it as any reliable source of information.

“The evidence is clear and uncontradicted that Dr Shapovalov will not receive a fair trial on the accusation matter, and did not receive a fair trial on the conviction matter.”

Sheriff Ross also criticised the Russian government for refusing to co-operate in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning incident as has also happened with extradition cases in England.