Russian court frees US investor Michael Calvey from jail

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A Russian court released US investor Michael Calvey on Thursday after two months in jail and placed him under house arrest until Saturday, softening his treatment in a fraud case that has rattled investors.

It was not immediately clear what would happen after Saturday.

Calvey, the founder of the Baring Vostok private equity group, was detained in February pending a trial on embezzlement charges that he denies and that he says are being used to pressure him in a corporate dispute over control of a Russian bank.

“Despite this corporate conflict that has led to criminal prosecution, I would like to underline what I have always said: I continue to believe in Russia’s investment potential,” Calvey said from a glass cage in the court.

Several prominent officials and businessmen had lobbied for the release of Calvey and other Baring Vostok executives detained with him and had called their pre-trial incarceration unduly harsh.

Senior pro-business figures in Russia’s establishment say the case has had a chilling effect on the business climate that is already under pressure from Western sanctions, sluggish economic growth, and rouble volatility.

Thursday’s ruling was made at the request of investigators who in a U-turn on Wednesday asked for Calvey and another detained suspect, Alexey Kordichev, to be moved to house arrest.
They had until then sought for the suspects to be held in custody and brought the charges against Calvey in the first place.

Prosecutors told the court they were happy for Calvey to be released from custody as he had three children, as well as property in Russia, and that several prominent businessmen had publicly vouched for him.

After prosecutors changed their stance, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, said they welcomed the move.

Baring Vostok, one of Russia’s oldest private equity groups, said it hoped that similar steps would also be made to release the fund’s other detained executives.