MOSCOW, April 18 (RIA Novosti) – New charges have been brought against whistleblowing opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his brother, who are suspected of fraud, Russian investigators said on Thursday.
The Investigative Committee’s announcement came just a day after Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader who has been one of the key leaders of the mass opposition protests in Russia in the last year, went on trial on separate charges in the Kirov Region. The trial was adjourned almost immediately until April 24 at the request of defense lawyers.
“Woke up on the train. Found out that a new case has been opened. That means we had a successful trip. Good morning,” Navalny tweeted on Thursday on his way back from Kirov to Moscow.
According to the new accusations, Navalny and his brother, Oleg, set up a Cyprus-based company called Alortag Management Limited, which they later used to register a fake firm headed by a formal manager, the committee said in a statement.
The investigators claim in 2008, Oleg Navalny, who was then heading a subsidiary of the Russian Postal company, used his position to sign a shipping services contract with the brothers’ private firm.
The company charged inflated prices for its services, causing losses to the state of 3.8 million rubles ($122,580), according to investigators. The profits were allegedly embezzled by the Navalnys, the statement said.
The new charges against the two brothers are being combined with earlier charges in a pending fraud case in which they are accused of defrauding another company out of 55 million rubles ($1.8 million).
Alexei Navalny has already been charged over his alleged role in embezzlement of 16 million rubles’ ($500,000) worth of timber from state-run Kirovles company in central Russia’s Kirov Region back in 2009.
The opposition leader has maintained his prosecution is politically motivated in revenge for his leading protests and exposure of graft in government.