After more than fifteen hours of reading the verdict, exhausting and often inaudible, the sentence fell without surprise late Friday August 6. The seven defendants in the Baring Vostok case were found guilty of embezzlement and given suspended prison sentences. Among them: Philippe Delpal, French banker in charge of financial services for the oldest Russian investment fund. “If that’s justice, I don’t understand it. I am now in shock. This is the story of a trial that did not exist, ”said Philippe Delpal after the verdict. He decided to appeal.
At the end of this politico-judicial saga which shook the investment climate in Moscow and created an additional Franco-Russian tension, the judge of the Mechcthanski court took again the conclusions of the investigator then of the prosecutor: according to her, the guilt of Philippe Delpal, that of the American founder of the fund Michael Calvey and their five Russian colleagues has been “fully proven”. They were sentenced to suspended prison sentences: four and a half years for the French, five and a half years for the American, three and a half to five years for the Russians.
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The verdict ended as if there had been no trial for six months. During the long hearings, the defense, in particular that of Philippe Delpal, the most determined and fighter to prove his innocence, had insisted on the absurdity of this affair. Baring Vostok had been overtaken by what is often the daily life of companies in Russia: one shareholder gets rid of another by suing him, settling a commercial dispute in criminal law thanks to high-ranking contacts.
Supporting documents, Philippe Delpal recalled during the trial that all the funds had been traced and that the credit behind the alleged crime had in fact made it possible to save the bank in question. But, during her interminable reading of the quickly muttered verdict, the judge rejected all these arguments in ten minutes. She ignored evidence, expertise and testimony provided by the defense.
While the leaders of Baring Vostok had signed an amicable agreement on the commercial aspect in the hope that this would promote a conciliatory approach in the criminal proceedings, the judge contented herself with repeating the document of the prosecution drafted there. a year ago and the conclusions against the prosecutor.
In a Russian justice known for its dependence on powers, the suspended sentence, thus avoiding the imprisonment of the defendants, looks like a real false compromise which allows the security structures and investigators behind the prosecutions not to lose face. But, with this verdict, the Russians “destroy the whole image” of their country for foreign investors, warned Emmanuel Quidet, the president of the Franco-Russian Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
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“Delpal, Calvey and their Russian colleagues have been found guilty, but in the eyes of the business community they are morally innocent. It’s ironic that the Russian government is spending so much money to organize forums and attract foreign investors. And then this kind of business occurs… ”, denounced Johan Vanderplaetse, president of the AEB, the association of European business in Moscow. They had both come to the final audience, as a sign of solidarity.