A court in Moscow on Thursday ruled to move Michael Calvey, a prominent American investor and founder of the Baring Vostok investment fund, who has been behind bars since mid-February on controversial fraud charges, from pre-trial jail to house arrest.
The move came after some of Moscow's most powerful figures called on the Kremlin to let him go, and warned that his arrest could discourage the foreign investment Russia's economy badly needs.
Judge Yulia Safina of Moscow's Basmanny District Court accepted a request filed by state investigators and ordered Calvey released "in the courtroom," said an AFP correspondent.
Calvey addressed the judge in Russian from his glass cage, and promised to abide by the conditions of the house arrest.
"To run from Russia for me would be to admit my guilt," said Calvey, who looked gaunt and did not smile.
He will be confined to his apartment located in an upscale building in central Moscow. His lawyers said Calvey would wear a house arrest monitor.
Investing in Russia
Calvey was arrested in February with five other individuals, and accused of defrauding Vostochny Bank of 2.5 billion rubles ($38.7 million).
Investigators say that in 2017 a firm controlled by Calvey owed 2.5 billion rubles to Vostochniy Bank and paid the debt with a 59.9 percent stake in Luxembourg's International Financial Technology Group (IFTG), which was valued at three billion rubles.
The investigators allege IFTG's real value was only 600,000 rubles. Calvey has offered to sell the IFTG shares on the open market to see how much they are really worth.
Calvey and his firm maintain that the case against them is fabricated and is being used as an instrument in a shareholder dispute.
Pro Russian investor
Calvey is seen as a Kremlin-friendly investor who has steered clear of politics and his arrest has shocked Western business circles.
His multi-billion-dollar equity firm has invested in some of Russia's biggest companies including Yandex, the Russian search giant, and Ozon, a top online retailer.
Apparently eager to avoid the politicization of his case Calvey insists that Russia remains a safe investment destination.
"Despite this corporate conflict, which has turned into criminal prosecution, I would like to reiterate what I have always said: I still believe in Russia's investment potential," Calvey said.
A number of prominent figures have spoken out in support of Calvey, including the Kremlin's business ombudsman Boris Titov and Russia's sovereign wealth fund head Kirill Dmitriev.
Baring Vostok says it has invested more than $2.8 billion in 80 companies in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries.
av/aw (AP, Reuters, AFP)