Commenting on the release of Russian businessman Alexei Kozlov, the Coordinator of German-Russian Intersocietal Cooperation, Andreas Schockenhoff, issued the following statement on Monday (3 June):
I welcome the release of Russian entrepreneur Alexei Kozlov. This marks the end of legal proceedings that have been criticized as being “unfounded” by the Moscow Helsinki Group and as “not convincing” by former Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin.
This decision taken by Moscow City Court is a first positive signal for those entrepreneurs who have fallen victim to harassment and corruption on the part of the authorities in Russia. The release of Alexei Kozlov must now be followed by the re-examination of numerous similar cases according to rule-of-law principles.
Furthermore, I expect the decision by Moscow City Court to release Mikhail Khodorkovsky from jail in October 2014 to be enforced. This too would be a clear indication of improved legal certainty and more reliable investment conditions in Russia. These are the preconditions for a thriving Russian middle class and for the country to achieve its self-imposed economic objectives.
Russian entrepreneur Alexei Kozlov was released on Monday, 3 June, after more than four years in prison. Moscow City Court acquitted him of charges of embezzlement and money laundering. Kozlov had initially been sentenced in 2009 to eight years in prison, but the term was later reduced to five years. In 2011, Kozlov’s wife, journalist Olga Romanova, succeeded in having the trial reopened whereupon Kozlov was conditionally released. In March 2012, the second trial ended with a confirmation of the initial verdict and Alexei Kozlov was imprisoned once again.
Critics claim that the Kozlov case is just one striking example of the many proceedings against entrepreneurs in Russia who have been imprisoned on the basis of questionable suspicions and dubious charges. In May, Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov therefore called in May for an amnesty to be granted to the more than 100,000 entrepreneurs who have been convicted for so-called “economic crimes”.