MOSCOW, August 24 (Itar-Tass) —— Problems experienced by passengers die to the bankruptcy of the Continent airline will be finally resolved in early September, Transport Clearing Chamber President Sergei Ilyichev said.
“The interference of the government helped to calm down the tension caused by the termination of transportation services of the Continent airline. The Transport Ministry, the Federal Agency for Air Transportation and the Transport Clearing Chamber are working in an online mode. Several additional flights of other airlines were organised for the passengers who had bought tickets for Continent flights,” the official said.
Earlier this month, Moscow’s Meshchansky Court refused to issue an arrest warrant for Continent Airline Director-General Vladimir Krasilnikov, who had been detained on charges of fraud and deliberate bankruptcy.
The court thus rejected the investigator’s request for Krasilnikov’s arrest and let him go in courtroom.
Judge Albert Trishkin said the investigator had failed to present evidence proving that “the subject can disappear, continue criminal activities or otherwise obstruct the investigation”.
He also was quite sceptical about the case materials, which in his opinion do not confirm fraud.
The judge stressed particularly that the investigator had charged Krasilnikov with a crime committed in the field of entrepreneurship and therefore he could not be put in custody.
Trishkin also said that Krasilnikov had no previous criminal records and was in old age.
“The investigator’s petition for putting Krasilnikov in custody is unfounded and the court made the decisions to dismiss it,” the judge said.
Krasilnikov pleaded not guilty and said his company was only a week short of August 5 when it planned to get a 120 million rouble loan from Transkreditbank.
“Not a kopek was stolen in the airline. We invested our own circulating assets, our own money and thought that the bank would give us 120 million roubles,” he said.
At the same time, he does not rule out that the company’ s bankruptcy “caused trouble to many passengers”.
“I am ready to bear responsibility for that as an entrepreneur,” Krasilnikov said.
“Vladimir Krasilnikov was charged with fraud and deliberate bankruptcy,” a spokesperson for the Moscow inter-regional investigation department for transport, Tatyana Morozova, told Itar-Tass. “Since he has been charged with a grave crime, which is punished by imprisonment of up to 10 years and, if remaining at large, may put pressure on witnesses, destroy business documents that can serve as evidence, obstruct the determination of accomplices in the crime or hide from the investigation, the investigator submitted a petition for his arrest with Moscow’s Meshchansky Court.”
But the prosecutor said the criminal case against Krasilnikov had been opened in violation of legislation.
On July 29, the Federal Agency for Air Transportation (Rosaviatsia) recalled the license from Continent, which had found itself on the brink of bankruptcy because of a multi-million-rouble debt, the company suspended flights from July 30. Sixty-nine flights were cancelled on July 29-31, leaving more than 3,000 passengers stranded at airports.
Following the cancellation of flights, the federal government interfered to protect the rights of passengers in the East Siberian, Volga, Urals and southern regions and make arrangements with other airlines for their transportation.
The Continent airline went bankrupt because of the purchase by Krasilnikov of several planes using the airline’s proceeds without the consent of the principal shareholder, a source at Rosaviatsia told Itar-Tass.
“Krasilnikov, the director-general of the Continent airline, who owns 25 percent of the airline’s shares, bought several Tu-154M planes in June using the airline’s proceeds for Avia Mir Leasing, which he co-owns with his wife. According to preliminary information, he made the purchase without the consent of the other shareholder who has 75 percent of the airline’s shares,” the source said.
According to Rosaviatsia, this resulted in a considerable portion of proceeds from the sale of air tickets being spent on the purchase of the aircraft to become Krasilnikov’s property. This caused a gap between the airlines’ revenues and expenditures and actually brought the company to bankruptcy.
After looking into numerous cancellations of the flights by the Continent airline, the Russian Investigation Committee started criminal proceedings on charges of fraud by the airline head and Rosaviatsia officials.
Sources in Rosaviatsia said, however, that the planes had been purchased after Rosaviatsia’s territorial department had investigated the airline’s financial and economic state in April 2011.
Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Itar-Tass that the investigators were ready to accept passengers’ petitions for damages around-the-clock.
Markin said earlier that that the Continent CEO and Rosaviatsia officials would be sued for fraud and might face up to ten years in prison.