Russia detains US investment manager Michael Calvey in Moscow on possible fraud charges

Moscow — 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 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.

Baring Vostok said in a statement released by Russian news agencies that the arrests are related to the dispute over Vostochny and have no effect on the fund’s core activities.

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 wealthy but government-dominated 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.

Putin critic freed after brief arrest in Spain

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 wanted list of the international police network Interpol.

Browder said in May last year that he was detained briefly in Spain on a Russian arrest warrant. After his release he told CBS News Radio that Russia should be expelled from Interpol for “abusing” it to have him detained.  

Browder, who has said Putin directly orchestrated a Kremlin attempt to influence the presidential campaign of Donald Trump in 2016, tweeted on Wednesday morning that he’d been arrested on an Interpol warrant, but the law enforcement body denied involvement.

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