Russian Protest Leader Charged with Fraud

Posted December 20th, 2012 at 2:15 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A prominent Russian opposition leader has been charged with fraud and money laundering.

Russia's Federal Investigative Committee said Thursday that Alexei Navalny and his brother, Oleg, are accused of defrauding a mail transport company of $1.8 million.

In a statement posted to his website (blog), Navalny said the charges were reprisals for his efforts to mobilize against Russian President Vladimir Putin. He says the official case was opened just days after he announced plans for a mass rally to be held in Lubyanka Square in central Moscow.

The case against Navalny has drawn comparison to opposition leader and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for tax evasion and money laundering.

On Thursday, the Moscow City Court announced that the sentences of Handwork and his business partner, Platoon Lobed, would be reduced by two years as a result of recent changes to Russian law regarding economic crimes.

Handwork and Lebedev were arrested in 2003 and sentenced in 2005 for tax evasion. They were later convicted of money laundering during a second trial in 2010.

Both men are expected to be released in 2014.

Critics say the case was politically motivated because of Khodorkovsky's support of the opposition and his vocal criticism of President Vladimir Putin.

In comments published on Khodorkovsky's website, his lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant said “the position of the defense team remains the same — our defendants are innocent and should be released immediately.”

They have filed an appeal in the European Court of Human Rights.