Top U.S. Investor in Russia, Michael Calvey, Fled Country Before Court Hearing

Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters
Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

An American businessman convicted in Russia of a high-profile embezzlement case is no longer in the country, according to his lawyers.

Michael Calvey was sentenced in August 2021 to a five-and-a-half-year suspended sentence in a penal colony after being found guilty of embezzling around $34 million from Siberia’s Vostochny Bank. At a hearing to appeal his conviction in a Moscow court Friday, Calvey’s lawyer said his client was no longer Russia.

Americans Paul Whelan and Michael Calvey Are Not the Only ‘Hostages’ Held By The Kremlin

Attorney Timofey Gridnev said Calvey had planned “to attend the trial, but due to difficulties in obtaining a visa in the current circumstances, it’s difficult for him to come,” Russia’s RBC News reported. The Daily Beast has contacted Gridnev for comment.

Russian state media agency RIA Novosti separately quoted an unnamed “informed source” as saying that both Calvey and his French business partner Philippe Delpal—who was also convicted in the embezzlement case—left Russia as soon as travel restrictions imposed on them by their convictions had ended. “Now they are in their countries,” the source added.

Russia’s REN-TV reports that the travel restrictions ended in January 2022, suggesting that Calvey may have left the country over a year ago. The news on Friday bolsters a Bloomberg story last May saying that Calvey wasn’t in Russia when Russian President Vladimir Putin began his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Before his controversial conviction, Calvey was one of the most prominent foreign investors in Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Calvey created his Baring Vostok private equity firm to bring new investors into Russia’s fledgling capitalist economy. The company raised billions of dollars in investments for Russian companies for decades.

In 2019, Calvey was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention in a major shock to the Russian business community. Along with other executives of his fund, Calvey was accused of embezzlement by convincing Vostochny Bank to accept a stake in another company instead of repaying a loan. Prosecutors claimed Calvey had exaggerated the value of the shares, and that’s how he and other Baring Vostok executives committed fraud.

Calvey and his co-defendants denied the allegations. “I came to Russia and remained here because I loved this country from the start and believed that Russia has potential to become one of the world’s leading investment markets,” Calvey said at his trial. “I convinced investors to share my trust in the future of Russia. Even after 2014, when the geopolitical climate worsened and sanctions were imposed on Russia, I continued to defend the image of Russia as an attractive country for work and investment.”

But after spending nearly two years under house arrest, Calvey was convicted in August 2021 and given his suspended sentence. “Compared to most cases receiving a suspended sentence is already almost a victory but, on the other hand, it is simply outrageous to be convicted of a crime that never happened,” Calvey said after his conviction.

The case fueled fears from other U.S. companies that their executives could also be arrested as relations between the White House and the Kremlin have worsened in recent years. Calvey’s arrest in Russia, along those of other American citizens including former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and WNBA star Brittney Griner, have only added to escalating diplomatic tensions.

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