Russian Businessmen Say Michael Calvey Should be Released from Jail

A number of well-known Russian businessmen on Thursday said that U.S. investor Michael Calvey’s treatment at the hands of the authorities over fraud charges looked too harsh and called for him to be released from a pre-trial detention facility on bail, Reuters reports.

The detention last month of Calvey, founder of the Baring Vostok private equity group, on embezzlement charges, which he denies, has rattled the country’s business community and spooked international investors.

The head of state-owned bank VTB, Andrei Kostin, said Calvey’s arrest is an “excessive measure,” and the case itself “raises questions and negatively affects the Russian market.”

“The circumstances of the Calvey case are not completely clear to business and that’s why it’s causing concern,” Kostin said.

Boris Titov, presidential commissioner for entrepreneurs’ rights, told reporters at Thursday’s forum that he and other business associations were working to try to get Calvey freed on bail.

“An entrepreneur should not be behind bars when his business is operational. They (Baring Vostok) have investments in more than 40 firms. We can radically change the way that the business climate in Russia is seen if he’s let out on bail,” the business ombudsman said.

Businessman Grigory Berezkin, who controls ESN Group, also said Calvey’s case could have been handled more gently, suggesting he could have been put under house arrest instead.

Matthias Schepp, chairman of the board at the Russian-German Chamber of Commerce, called the Calvey case “very damaging” for Russia.

“Unfortunately we know of not just one but several instances where investment has been put off because of this.”

Thursday’s calls for leniency in the case were made on the sidelines of a high profile business forum in Moscow which President Vladimir Putin attended. Putin, who has not intervened in the Calvey case despite being lobbied on the matter by various businessmen, met some of Russia’s most influential business people on Thursday to hear their concerns. In a speech at the event, the president refrained from commenting on the Calvey case.

State prosecutors have charged Calvey with fraud along with three other executives from his fund, accusing them of embezzling 2.5 billion rubles ($38.2 million). Calvey denies the allegations, saying the case is being used to apply pressure on him in a business dispute over a Russian bank in which he is a shareholder.