Navalny brothers indicted on Yves Rocher fraud charges
MOSCOW, October 29 (RAPSI) - Federal investigators formally charged opposition activist and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg with fraud in a case involving cosmetics company Yves Rocher Vostok, the Russian Investigative Committee announced Tuesday.
The statement asserted that the Navalny brothers had embezzed upwards of 26 million rubles from the cosmetics company, as well as upwards of 4 million rubles from the Multidisciplinary Processing Company by way of a fraud scheme. The brothers were further charged with having laundered 21 million rubles, according to the statement.
The Investigative Committee plans to complete its investigation in the near future, at which point it will provide the defendants, victims, and lawyers with materials for review.
Earlier this month, the Moscow City Court upheld the legality of the present case against the Navalny brothers. In so holding, the judge rejected a motion to dismiss the case, and turned down another motion filed by the Navalny brothers requesting the right to call upon the Yves Rocher Vostok head as a plaintiff in the case, and to review the Investigative Committee’s case materials.
In December 2012, the Investigative Committee described the charges pending against the Navalny brothers as follows: "Oleg and Alexei Navalny embezzled over 55 million rubles from a trade company... In order to legalize the illegally obtained funds, the Navalny brothers transferred over 19 million rubles ($587,415) under false pretexts from a fly-by-night company to an account belonging to the Kobyakovo Willow Weaving Factory, which was also founded by the brothers."
Over time, information surfaced that the trade company is being referred to the Russian operation of the French cosmetic giant Yves Rocher.
Investigators found that Alexei Navalny is registered as the founder and the general director of Glavnoye Podpisnoye Agentstvo (Main Subscription Agency), but he has not had anything to do with the company's activity.
While holding a senior position with Russia's Postal Service, Oleg Navalny is accused of having "manipulated" Yves Rocher into entering into a contractual agreement for cargo mail transportation with the Main Subscription Agency.
The enterprise transported mail from August 2008 until May 2011. While the real cost of the transportation amounted to no more than 31 million rubles ($958,414), over 55 million rubles were transferred to the agency's account for transportation services allegedly rendered.
According to Navalnys lawyer Olga Mikhailova, none of the documents submitted by the investigators prove her clients' guilt. This is a civil dispute between the companies, she added.
Alexey Navalny, 37, a lawyer and an anti-corruption blogger, has risen to become one of the most prominent faces of the Russian opposition movement since the start of mass protest rallies in Moscow in late 2011.
He ran for Moscow mayor last month, losing to the Kremlin-backed incumbent, but boosting his public exposure through a vigorous grassroots campaign. He gained just over 27 percent of the vote, well above what initial polls suggested he would get.
On appeal in a separate criminal case, Navalny received a suspended sentence earlier this month based on his conviction on charges of timber embezzlement last in July stemming from a stint spent serving as an advisor to Kirov governor Nikita Belykh between May and September 2009. Investigators had alleged that Navalny organized the theft of over 10,000 cubic meters of timber during that period in collusion with Vyatka Timber Company Director Pyotr Ofitserov and Kirovles CEO Vyacheslav Opalyov.
He was initially sentenced to five years in a penal colony, and his co-accused Pyotr Ofitserov received a four-year sentence. The two were held liable to pay a one million ruble fine between them.
On October 16, however, a court in Russia’s Kirov region suspended Navalny’s sentence.