RAPSI to report live from Navalny embezzlement verdict hearing
MOSCOW, July 17 (RAPSI) - The Leninsky District Court in Kirov is set to announce its verdict Thursday in the large-scale timber embezzlement case presently pending against renowned opposition activist and Moscow mayoral hopeful Alexei Navalny, and RAPSI will be reporting live as the verdict and potential sentences are handed down. The hearing will begin at 9am Moscow time (GMT + 4), and RAPSI will begin its live broadcast at 8:45am.
According to investigators, while serving on a voluntary basis as an adviser to the Kirov region governor, Navalny organized the theft of over 10,000 cubic meters of timber. It was allegedly stolen from Kirovles company between May and September 2009 in collusion with Vyatka Timber Company Director Pyotr Ofitserov and Kirovles CEO Vyacheslav Opalyov.
The regional budget is estimated to have suffered the loss of 16 million rubles ($514,140) as a result. In May, however, Kirov Governor Nikita Belykh testified to the contrary in court that he had no grounds from which to conclude that Navalny’s actions as his advisor had in fact caused damage to the region’s economic interests and budget. Belykh stipulated however that he could not speak on the point in his official capacity, “because we have not examined the issue.”
If convicted Navalny along with Ofitserov faces up to ten years in prison, and will be ineligible for public office even if only slapped with probation. On July 5, prosecutors requested a six-year prison sentence and a fine in the amount of one million rubles.
Opalyov, who has entered into an agreement with the prosecution, received a four-year suspended sentence.
Navalny said in the interview with Dozhd TV this past April that he expected a conviction in the present case and announced his intention to run for the Russian presidency.
Then in July he submitted documents to become registered as a mayoral candidate in Moscow, which will hold snap elections on September 8. A spokesperson for the Moscow City Election Commission Commission told RAPSI on July 12 that if convicted of the Kirovles embezzlement, Navalny’s name will be removed from the mayoral candidate list.
In addition to the Kirovles embezzlement case, investigators have opened three other criminal cases against Navalny, on charges of embezzlement from a political party, deceiving an international cosmetics company, and illegally conspiring to privatize a central Russia distillery.
The trial began on April 16, but was promptly postponed based on a request by Navalny’s legal team for more time to prepare its defense. The hearing has been rescheduled to start the following week, on April 24.
In appealing for the postponement, Navalny noted that he had not yet exhausted all appeals in his effort to transfer the proceedings from Kirov to Moscow, and that he had not expected the case to move forward in Kirov prior to the final outcome of this decision. He explained further that he had recently added a local Kirov lawyer to his team. The local lawyer needed more time to prepare.
The judge held that Navalny’s team should be afforded a week to prepare for trial.
The following week’s hearing inspired Navalny’s defense team to seek a replacement judge based on allegations of impropriety during witness examination.
This effort was repeated in June, when Navalny’s defense team filed a motion asserting that presiding Judge Sergei Blinov was “acting as a prosecutor, and he should not be carrying out this role."