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Court to announce verdict for Opposition activist in Kirovles property theft case

July 18, 2013, 2:58 UTC+3

A candidate can be barred from participation five days before the election date

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KIROV, July 18 (Itar-Tass) - The Lenin district court of Kirov on Thursday is expected to announce the verdict for Opposition blogger, lawyer, and Moscow mayoral election candidate Alexei Navalny, accused of masterminding misuse of the Kirovles company property.

Director of the Vyatka Timber Company /VLK/ Pyotr Ofitserov is a second defendant in the case, who investigators said had abetted the crime.

"The evidence, including witnesses' testimony, electronic correspondence, and the recordings of telephone conversations between the defendants confirm Navalny's interest in the VLK operation and his guilt in masterminding the misuse of Kirovles property, as well as Ofitserov's guilt in abetting," prosecutor Sergei Bogdanov said in a final statement.

He demanded that Navalny and Ofitserov be sentenced, respectively, to five and six years in a general regime penitentiary, and fined one million roubles each.

Bogdanov noted that given the nature of crime, a suspended sentence or a jail term below the lowest limit were not possible for the defendants.

"We assume that this penalty is fair and commensurate to their deeds; it will be a lesson for others," the prosecutor said.

Navalny said the charges of masterminding the misuse were "absurd," and that his alleged "accomplice" was an innocent person.

"It's absurd; you cannot commit an economic crime without deriving profit. The prosecutor for the state demands million-rouble fines from Ofitserov, who was in the red in cooperation, or from me, who did not receive a penny," he told the court.

He explained that he had examined a large number of loss-making companies, and requested data on them for subsequent recommendations to the regional government on their funding. "Ofitserov is an ordinary entrepreneur, I requested information on Kirovles from him and obtained it. But I did not pay him any money, nor did he pay me any," the Opposition activist claimed.

His three lawyers said the charges were far-fetched and politically motivated. "This trial does not meet the objectives of justice; it aims to publicly defame and prosecute a well-known public and political figure," Navalny's lawyer Olga Mikhailova said. She believes the defendant acted within the framework of his authority as an aide to the Kirov region governor on a voluntary basis. Many witnesses, including witnesses for the prosecution, confirmed it, Mikhailova said.

In his final statement, Navalny said he was to blame for the criminal prosecution of Ofitserov. He apologized to him and urged the court to acquit Ofitserov, a father of five children.

On Tuesday, the Moscow election commission registered Navalny as a candidate in Moscow mayoral election. Even in case of guilty verdict, it places restrictions on his administrative or criminal prosecution. Also, Navalny may appeal the verdict, and if this verdict does not become effective before September 3, the candidate may take part in the election.

A candidate can be barred from participation five days before the election date.

Navalny and Ofitserov went on trial on April 17. Their lawyers demanded recusal of the judge four times, accusing him of bias and sticking to incriminating trend at the trial, but none of their petitions have been granted.

Earlier, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Tass that Navalny, as an advisor to the Kirov region governor, "arranged the theft of Kirovles company by entering in collusion with Vyatka Timber Company director Pyotr Ofitserov and Kirovles director general Vyacheslav Opalev."

The SK believes that more than 10,000 cubic meters of timber were stolen in the period from May through September 2009, causing a 16-million-rouble damage to the regional budget.

On December 24, 2012, Kirov's Lenin district court gave Opalev a four-year suspended sentence with three-year probation. Opalev had pleaded guilty and signed a plea bargain agreement. Navalny and Ofitserov denied wrongdoing. The former insisted that former Kirovles director Vyacheslav Opalev had slandered him.

Navalny said he had come to the Kirov region at the invitation of regional governor Nikita Belykh in 2009, who offered him the post of his advisor. Navalny noted that Belykh had needed him as an expert in the anti-corruption field.

According to the defendant, the governor ordered him to look into the Kirovles operation and understand what was happening there. At that time, he got acquainted with Opalev. When examining company operation, Navalny found that it had huge wage arrears and liability to the regional budget. Opalev was hoping to pay the 200-milion-rouble to 250-million-rouble debt by selling surplus supplies from timber depots. The opposition activist claimed that there had been many complaints against Kirovless about corruption and that many were not willing to work with that enterprise.

"While examining the Kirovles operation, I found out that there were no surplus supplies claimed by Opalev and that his company was unable to ship products on its own," Navalny stated. He said he had accused Opalev and his relatives of corruption, and that their conflict entered "the open phase."

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