Michael Calvey, founder of private equity firm Baring Vostok Capital Partners, sits in a security booth during a hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, Russia, February 16 2019. Picture: ANDREY RUDAKOY / BLOOMBERG
Michael Calvey, founder of private equity firm Baring Vostok Capital Partners, sits in a security booth during a hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, Russia, February 16 2019. Picture: ANDREY RUDAKOY / BLOOMBERG

Moscow — Russian state prosecutors on Thursday formally charged top US investor Michael Calvey, the founder of the Baring Vostok private equity group, with fraud, hours before Washington accused Moscow of denying its diplomats access to him.

Calvey was first detained last week along with three other executives from his fund after investigators accused him and others of embezzling 2.5-billion roubles ($38.17m).

Calvey denies the allegations against him, saying the case is being used to apply pressure on him in a business dispute over a Russian bank in which he is a shareholder.

The case has raised concerns among some foreign investors in Russia who are worried about the business climate. In a sign those concerns are being taken seriously in some circles, the head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund and its biggest state bank have spoken out in Calvey’s favour.

RDIF on Thursday requested Calvey be freed from a pre-trial detention facility in Moscow and put under house arrest instead.

Hours after Calvey was charged, the US embassy in Moscow said Russia was denying its diplomats access to him. It said it had asked to visit Calvey multiple times, but had not been granted access, something it said flouted consular rules between the two countries.

“We insist on access now,” the embassy said.

Calvey is being held in a cell with seven other people and is experiencing back pain, Ivan Melnikov, a member of a public commission for the rights of inmates, said.

Melnikov, who visited Calvey in custody on Wednesday, said the US national was sharing a cell with people being held over non-economic crimes in contravention of prison regulations.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Calvey’s case was in the political spotlight.

“The question lies at the centre of a very lively political discussion, and I think that all the circumstances of the case will be taken into account when the legal hearings take place soon,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

“As far as I understand he was not a very visible person in the public realm. But of course I’ve heard what people whom I deeply respect have said about him, and I think many people have heard this,” Lavrov said.

Calvey is due to appeal his arrest next week.

Reuters