Jailed Russian Banker Warns Businesspeople with Newspaper Ad

A Russian banker awaiting trial on charges of organized crime has taken out a full-page newspaper ad on Wednesday to warn businesspeople that they too could face a similar fate, the Moscow Times reports.

“Happy New Year, dear businessmen! The end of December: gifts, traffic jams, parties. You are getting ready to go on vacation, but tomorrow you can go to prison,” said the message in business daily Vedomosti paid for by banker Alexander Popov.

It comes as Russian authorities consider limiting the use of organized-crime laws in corporate disputes and economic crimes. Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin extended punishments, including adding life sentences, for crime bosses.

Popov, who served as an executive for Tolyattikhimbank for nearly two decades, faces up to 20 years on suspicion of major fraud and tax evasion in addition to creating and participating in an organized criminal group. Moscow’s Basmanny district court has extended his pre-trial detention until Feb. 1, 2020.

Dozens of businesspeople and entrepreneurs are currently awaiting trial under the organized-crime article, Popov says in the full-page ad. He noted that the authorities do not disclose the number of people charged with organized crime.

The Kremlin is considering reforming the contentious law after Russia’s Supreme Court called for fewer prosecutions of entrepreneurs under the organized-crime statute.

“Indeed, this topic has been discussed at a number of meetings and, indeed, we’re in the final stages of formulating positions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying Wednesday.