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Russia Detains Prominent US Investor on Fraud Suspicion

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(Maksim Tikhansky/Dreamstime)

Friday, 15 February 2019 12:41 PM

A veteran U.S. investment fund manager was detained in Moscow on Friday and faces fraud charges in a case that's likely to rattle the Russian business community.

Michael Calvey, founder and senior partner at Baring Vostok equity firm, was detained alongside two other fund managers in the morning, and a Moscow court is expected to rule on their arrest later Friday.

The Basmanny court said Calvey, who has been working in Russia since 1994, and five other people, including two Baring Vostok managers, face charges of fraud. The Interfax news agency cited an investigator telling the court Friday that Calvey is suspected of embezzling 2.5 billion rubles ($37 million) from Vostochny Bank, where Baring Vostok has a controlling stake.

Calvey, who attended his court hearing in Moscow on Friday afternoon, has long worked in Russia and invested heavily in the country's technology sector, including in the web search giant Yandex.

The charges follow a protracted dispute between Vostochny shareholders, and come as Russia is holding a major investment conference in Sochi attended by President Vladimir Putin. Russian news agencies cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying Putin did not know about Calvey's arrest.

"Baring Vostok believes that the detention of its employees and the charges that have been brought are a result of a conflict with shareholders of Vostochniy Bank," the fund said, using an alternative English spelling of the bank's name. "We have full confidence in the legality of our employees' actions and will vigorously defend their rights. Baring Vostok's activities in the Russian Federation are fully compliant with all applicable laws."

Baring Vostok added the fund is continuing to work despite the arrests.

Baring Vostok, which says it has over $3.7 billion in committed capital for its investments, began investing in Russia during the chaotic 1990s transition to capitalism after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Its best-known investment was the 2000 acquisition of a 35.7 percent stake in the then-startup Yandex, which grew to become a giant in Russian-language internet search, advertising and commerce. By the time Baring Vostok sold its last Yandex shares in 2016, it had earned vast profits.

Baring Vostok's investments have tended to focus on tech companies, telecoms and retail, rather than getting involved with the state-owned giants of the oil and gas sector.

That contrasts with the strategy favored by the U.S.-born British fund manager Bill Browder, whose Hermitage Capital Management was raided by Russian authorities in 2007. Browder had often invested in state-run companies where he sought to expose alleged corruption to make them more efficient and profitable.

Browder, once a major foreign investor in Russia, ran afoul of the government in the late 2000s while investigating an alleged large-scale tax fraud scheme with his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Authorities seized Browder's company, Hermitage Capital, and denied him entry to Russia. Magnitsky was thrown into a Moscow prison, where he died in 2009.

Browder has since campaigned globally for sanctions against Russian human rights violators. Russia has placed him on the Interpol wanted list.

Calvey's arrest shows that Russia is "entirely corrupt," Browder wrote on Twitter on Friday. "Of all the people I knew in Moscow, Mike played by their rules, kept his head down and never criticized the government."

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A veteran U.S. investment fund manager was detained in Moscow on Friday and faces fraud charges in a case that's likely to rattle the Russian business community.
veteran, us, investment, manager, moscow
538
2019-41-15
Friday, 15 February 2019 12:41 PM
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