Economic Crime Arrests Allegedly Continue

court.jpgIt seems that one way or another there is always an obstacle to President Medvedev’s ostensible aim of reducing graft and obviating legal nihilism.  An article in today’s Moscow Times showcases this precise kind of obstacle.  Anastasia Kornya reports that courts have found a loophole to avoid obeying the new law that prohibits business people from being arrested for economic crimes: judges are quite simply redefining the nature of an economic crime.  The law, which was passed in April, was backed by Medvedev and seemed a presidential response of sorts towards the shocking conditions under which corporate lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and realtor Vera Trifonova died whilst being held in pretrial detention on economic charges.  If the article is to be believed however, this law is far from solving the problem:

“Legislation prohibiting the arrest of businessmen won’t help many of them, as courts are refusing to acknowledge that some suspects were engaged in entrepreneurial activity.

Vedomosti has obtained a copy of the Tverskoi District Court’s decision extending the arrest of Alexander Volkov, director of Eurasia Logistics, who was accused of fraud and property laundering, as well as document forgery committed as part of an organized group. The Interior Ministry’s Investigative Committee said that in 2006-08, Eurasia helped Mukhtar Ablyazov, former head of BTA-Bank, take out loans he never intended to return”.

“Volkov was arrested in March, along with three other Eurasia Logisticsemployers. But in April, a law backed by President Dmitry Medvedev wasenacted prohibiting arrest for economic crimes, including fraudcharges, if the fraud was related to entrepreneurial activity.

But Volkov was not released from custody. On April 30, the courtextended his arrest until September. The judge, Sergei Podoprigorov,who also ordered the arrest of Sergei Magnitsky — a lawyer who died inpretrial detention in November — decided that the circumstancesmandating Volkov’s arrest had not changed and that his charges werecriminal, not economic. A court decision extending the arrest of DenisVorotyntsev, a lawyer for Eurasia Logistics, explained that the crimesin question were committed with the intent to create a Ponzi scheme,the goal of which was obtaining loans, not real entrepreneurial work.

Interpreting the law this way will allow courts to ignore the ban onarrests of businessmen — all they need to do is claim that the crime isnot related to entrepreneurship, Volkov’s lawyer Yelena Oreshnikovasaid. In Volkov’s case, the court ignored the fact that the creditswere invested in real estate projects, she said”.

Read on here.