Fund of US investor detained in Russia appeals to Putin

US investor Michael Calvey, the head of private equity firm Baring Vostok has been placed in pre-trial detention in a Moscow jail over fraud charges. (Reuters pic)

MOSCOW: The investment fund founded by a US businessman detained in Moscow on suspicion of fraud appealed on Monday to Russian President Vladimir Putin to personally intervene in the case.

Russia arrested Michael Calvey – a prominent US investor and founder of the Baring Vostok private equity firm – earlier this month. He was formally charged with fraud last week.

In an open letter on its website, Baring Vostok asked Putin to take “personal control” of the case in order to “ensure a comprehensive, independent and objective investigation.”

Calvey’s arrest sent shockwaves through Western business circles and sparked fears of cutbacks in foreign investment sorely needed for economic growth.

“Russian courts and law enforcement authorities in recent years have reduced the use of imprisonment as a form of pre-trial detention for cases related to commercial activities,” the open letter said.

Baring Vostok said this “helped eliminate the possibility of putting undue pressure on a business partner as part of a business conflict.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Putin will be informed about the letter.

During his annual state of the nation address last week, Putin called for fewer criminal proceedings against businesses.

“In order to achieve the great tasks our country faces, we need to get rid of everything that limits business freedom,” the Russian leader said.

Putin regularly says that businesses should not feel persecuted in Russia and that suspects in economic cases should not be put in pre-trial jail.

On Monday, Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had opened a telephone hotline for “responding urgently to reports of pressure on businesses”.

Calvey has been placed in pre-trial detention in a Moscow jail along with several other suspects.

They are accused of defrauding Vostochny Bank of at least 2.5 billion rubles (US$37.7 million). Calvey has denied wrongdoing and blames the case on a shareholder dispute.