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Navalny faces jail time as new fraud investigation opens against him

The Russian Federal Prison Service could ask to replace his suspended sentence with 3.5 years in prison if he does not return to Moscow. At the same time, a new fraud investigation against the opponent was opened.

According to the Main Directorate of the Federal Prison Service in Moscow, Alexeï Navalny was not fulfilling the commitments assigned to him by the court in the context of the Yves Rocher case and was escaping the control of the executive penal inspection. Thus, his suspended sentence could be replaced by imprisonment if he does not physically appear at the Federal Service at 9 a.m. on December 29, his lawyer Vadim Kobzev announced on December 28.

“On December 22, 2020, the review The Lancet published an article based on materials from the German clinic, Charité, collected during the treatment of the citizen of the Russian Federation Alexei Navalny. According to the article, Alexeï Navalny left the clinic on September 20, 2020 and by October 12, all the sequelae of his illness had disappeared. Thus, the person sentenced to a suspended sentence does not fulfill the commitments assigned to him by the court and escapes the control of the criminal executive inspection, ”the Federal Prison Service specified in a message.

The publication, which does not quote Navalny’s name, refers to the incident that occurred on August 20 when a “44-year-old man suddenly fell ill on a plane about 10 minutes after departure.” As it was later revealed, Navalny suffered a malaise aboard a plane between Siberia and Moscow. Hospitalized initially in Omsk, Siberia, he was transferred on August 22 to the Charité clinic in Berlin, where the authorities became certain that he had been the victim of poisoning. Navalny is currently staying in Germany.

However, the Federal Penitentiary Service considers that the opponent, as a person sentenced to a suspended sentence, “did not systematically fulfill the commitments assigned to him by the court or escaped control”. This could allow the authorities to file a petition with the court to replace the suspended sentence with imprisonment under part 4 of article 190 of the Executive Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

Currently, Alexeï Navalny is on probation as part of the Yves Rocher affair. He was found guilty of fraud as well as of laundering funds obtained by illicit means. In accordance with the court decision of December 30, 2014, he was sentenced to a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence with a five-year probation period. The probationary period was then extended by one year and will therefore end on December 30, 2020. As a result, if the court sided with the Federal Prison Service, Navalny risks a prison sentence.

After the announced deadline has expired, the Russian Federal Prison Service has not yet made any new announcements concerning the Russian opponent’s case and his sentence.

A new investigation opened for large-scale fraud

At the same time, a new large-scale fraud investigation was opened in Russia against Alexei Navalny, Russian authorities said on Tuesday. This has no connection with the Yves Rocher affair or with the request of the Russian Federal Prison Service.

In a statement, the Russian Investigative Committee said Navalny is suspected of having spent 356 million rubles (3.9 million euros at the current rate) for personal use on donations collected by several organizations in particular, according to the authorities, anti-corruption or human rights protection associations. The authorities mention in particular donations to the Anti-Corruption Fund, founded by the opponent, and five other entities of which Navalny is de facto the director.

The Investigation Committee maintains that Alexeï Navalny used this sum “for the acquisition of personal and material goods, as well as the payment of expenses (including holidays abroad)”. Russian law provides for up to 10 years imprisonment for this offense.

Navalny denounces “a crisis of hysteria”

“It looks like (Vladimir) Putin is having a fit of hysteria,” reacted the opponent on his Twitter account. He called on his supporters to mock this new investigation by continuing to donate to his organizations.

He also argued that the new case was linked to his suspected poisoning in Siberia in late August, in which he claims to have been the victim of a nerve agent attack, on the orders of the Kremlin. “They are trying to send me to prison because I did not die and then looked for my murderers,” said Alexeï Navalny.

The opponent published last week a video of a telephone conversation with a suspected member of the FSB in which the latter, thinking to speak to an intelligence official, explains that the Russian special services have indeed poisoned Alexei Navalny. The authorities qualified this conversation as falsification but never denied that the opponent’s interlocutor was indeed an agent.