This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is demanding that Russia give U.S. diplomats immediate access to American investment-fund manager Michael Calvey, who was formally charged with financial fraud and is being held in a Russian pretrial detention center.
Calvey’s lawyer, Dmitry Kletochkin, confirmed on February 21 that Calvey was formally charged by the Russian authorities, adding that his client maintained his innocence and had refused to answer interrogator’s questions.
“My client chose not to answer questions. The charge is pretty vague and not concrete. That is why he will start answering questions [by interrogators] only after outlining defense position with his lawyers,” Kletochkin said.
Calvey, a U.S. citizen who founded the Baring Vostok private-equity fund in 1994, is one of the most prominent foreign investors in Russia.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said on February 21 that it “has not received permission from Russian authorities to visit” Calvey since his arrest on September 14.
“Russia’s obligations under the Bilateral Consular Convention require them to provide consular access within four days,” the U.S. Embassy statement said.
“We have requested this access multiple times. The Russian Federation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet complied with the terms of our Bilateral Consular Convention and has not allowed us to provide consular assistance. We have expressed our strong concern about this delay through diplomatic channels.”
Calvey’s February 14 arrest on accusations of large-scale fraud in Russia sent shock waves through Western business circles.
The 51-year-old Calvey was detained in Moscow along with three other Baring Vostok employees, including French citizen Philippe Delpal, and two other suspects. All six have since been ordered held in pretrial detention.
According to Kletochkin, all other persons arrested in the case were also formally charged with large financial fraud on February 21. All of them maintain their innocence, he said.
Russia’s Association of Professional Investors issued a statement on February 21, calling on the authorities to choose a pretrial restriction other than arrest for Calvey and other suspects in the case.
And Russia’s sovereign wealth fund on February 21 said that its head, Kirill Dmitriev, had appealed to a Moscow court and the Investigative Committee to move Calvey, Delpal, and two Russian suspects in the case to house arrest.
Media reports in Russia said on February 21 that business ombudsman Boris Titov had sent a request to Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika urging him to assess the legality of Calvey’s arrest.
If convicted Calvey could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his annual state-of-the-nation address on February 20 that “honest businesses” should not live in fear of prosecution. It was not immediately clear whether he was referring to Calvey’s case.
Baring Vostok is one of the largest private-equity firms in the former Soviet Union, according to its website. It manages more than $3.7 billion in assets, is particularly active in the technology sector, and owns a stake in the Yandex search engine.
Before founding Baring Vostok, Calvey worked for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the investment bank Salomon Brothers. He is a member of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.
Amid severely strained ties between Moscow and Washington, Calvey is the second U.S. citizen to be arrested in a high-profile case in Russia in as many months.
Paul Whelan, an ex-Marine who says he is innocent and was in Moscow for a friend’s wedding, was detained in late December on an espionage charge and is in pretrial detention.
Russian officials have denied that the country’s troubled relations with the United States influenced the arrests.