Entrepreneurs Beware

BE24B70D-FA63-4226-98B1-2B91D5482D88_w527_s.jpgWe have previously blogged about the courageous activities of Business-Solidarity chairwoman Yana Yakovleva, who, following a stint in jail on allegations of tax evasion she maintains were unjustified, dedicates her time to militating against what she considers to be the systemic ill treatment of entrepreneurs in Russia at the hands of corrupt officials.  She comments today in an RFE/RL feature about the case of 34-year-old Moscow entrepreneur Vladimir Romanov, who was sent to pretrial detention on charges of illegal banking activities and money laundering, which he also claims to be unfounded.  His wife was told his release from jail would cost $400,000; a sum, which, when paid, did not secure his freedom.  Yakovleva says, ‘a trend has swept the country, and it already has a name: criminal-legal repression […] It is a state within the state. This system has long cut loose and turned against the population, but now it has cut loose even from the federal authorities.’  Romanov explains:

A man entered my office and indentified himself as a police officer. He told me to place my hands on the table and shut down my computer,” he recalls. “At first I thought it was a joke, but then several people entered the room armed with machine guns. More than 50 people were involved in the operation. That’s when I realized I was in trouble, in big trouble.”

Large-Scale Bribery

Romanov claims more than $300,000 in cash was stolen during the raid onhis office and accuses police of placing wash towels on hissurveillance cameras to cover up the theft.

He says investigators offered to free him in return for a large sum ofmoney just a few weeks following his arrest. After refusing to pay thebribe, he says investigators turned against his wife Margarita,threatening to throw her in jail and place the couple’s child in anorphanage. It wasn’t long before she caved in to the pressure.

“I had no connection whatsoever with the business activities that werecausing Vladimir problems. It all sounded crazy to me,” she says. “Butwhen I started receiving threats on my home and mobile phones, itbecame very real. And by the time these people started calling one ofmy friends, I was ready to give anything to make them back off, to makeall of this end.”

Margarita Romanova ended up paying $400,000 in return for her husband’srelease on bail, but investigators failed to honor the deal.

When they asked for another $500,000 to prevent additional charges frombeing brought against him, she reported the case to the InteriorMinistry’s internal-crimes unit. One of the corrupt investigators wassoon detained after a sting operation.

But things only got worse for Romanov. He was transferred to anotherprison outside Moscow and placed in a tiny cell with hardened criminalsin what he believes was retaliation from investigators.

Today, he considers himself lucky to be alive and out of jail, at least until his trial begins. No date has been announced yet.

Read the full article here.