A prominent U.S investor went on trial in Moscow on February 2 nearly two years after he was arrested on embezzlement charges that rattled Russia’s business community.
Michael Calvey, the founder of the private equity group Baring Vostok, and other executives were detained in February 2019. They have denied wrongdoing and said the charges against them are being used to pressure them in a business dispute over control of Vostochny Bank.
In the Moscow courtroom on February 2, Calvey again proclaimed his innocence.
"The allegation against me is not only unreasonable and unfair, but also illegal," Calvey told the judge, speaking in Russian.
On trial with Calvey is Philippe Delpal, a French national who was among the executives detained in February 2019.
Delpal also denied his guilt, saying the case is a "continuation of unfounded speculation and fabrications,” according to the AFP news agency.
The trial is set to resume on February 17.
The case against Baring Vostok has troubled Russia’s business community and prompted several prominent officials and businessmen to voice concerns about the treatment of the executives.
In November 2020, Russia’s Supreme Court greatly reduced the terms of detention for Calvey and the six others under house arrest.
The court ruled the seven businessmen could not leave their residence at night and not be in contact with each other, send or receive mail, or use telephones unless in case of emergency.
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 three Americans currently held in Russia on charges supporters say are groundless. Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine, was sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years on espionage charges, which he has vehemently rejected.
Another former U.S. marine, Trevor Reed, was sentenced to nine years in prison in late July after a Moscow court found him guilty of assaulting two police officers, a charge that he refused to admit.