Prominent U.S. investor Michael Calvey has told a Moscow court that evidence presented in his embezzlement trial proves his innocence and that his acquittal would attract billions of dollars in investment into the Russian economy.
Delivering his final testimony in a high-profile trial that is being closely watched by the international business community, Calvey told Moscow's Meshchansky district court on July 19 he and his co-defendants acted "solely within the law" in a case he believes is being used to pressure them in a business dispute over control of Vostochny Bank.
The case has rattled the business community both within Russia and outside of it, and prompted several prominent officials and businessmen to voice concerns about the treatment of the executives.
"The court's decision to reject all the charges would be a big positive signal proving that courts are independent and investors' rights are protected. It would not be an exaggeration to suppose that this kind of a positive decision of the court could attract billions of dollars in new investments to Russia and create thousands of new jobs," Calvey told the court.
The trial of Calvey, the founder of the private equity group Baring Vostok, Philippe Delpal, and five other associates -- Russian citizens Vagan Abgaryan, Ivan Zyuzin, Maksim Vladimirov, Aleksei Kordichev, and Aleksandr Tsakunov -- started on February 2, almost two years after their arrest.
The charges stem from a long-running dispute between Baring Vostok and Vostochny Bank shareholders. Baring Vostok owned a 52.5 percent share of the bank. Prosecutors accuse the defendants of embezzling 2.5 billion rubles ($37.5 million) by persuading Vostochny Bank shareholders to approve a share deal at an unrealistically low price.
Calvey, who along with his co-defendants has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, said at the trial that he worked in Russia because he "loved this country and believed that Russia had the potential to become one of the world's leading investment markets."
"Even after 2014, when the geopolitical climate worsened and [Western] sanctions were imposed on Russia [over the seizure of Ukraine's Crimea and instigating separatism in Ukraine's east], I continued to defend Russia's image as an attractive country for work and investments," Calvey said.
The prosecution has asked the court to find Calvey guilty and hand him a six-year suspended prison term, and that Calvey's associate, Delpal, who is a French national, should receive a five-year suspended prison. The others, the prosecution says, should be given suspended prison terms of between four and five years.
Judge Anna Sokova said that the verdicts and any sentences in the case will be pronounced on August 2.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin was aware that international businesses are following the case against Calvey and his associates, but said he didn't think "a single [criminal] case could have global consequences."
Baring Vostok is one of the largest and oldest private-equity firms operating in Russia. It was founded in the early 1990s and manages more than $3.7 billion in assets. The company was an early major investor in Yandex, Russia's dominant search engine.
Calvey is one of several Americans currently held in Russia on charges their supporters say are groundless.
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years on espionage charges that he has vehemently rejected.
Another former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, was sentenced to nine years in prison in late July 2020 after a Moscow court found him guilty of assaulting two police officers, a charge that he refused to admit.