MOSCOW, April 18. /TASS/. A total of 16 companies will take part in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with French businessmen on Thursday, the head of the Russian-French Commerce and Industry Chamber, Pavel Shinsky, told TASS.
"A total of 16 companies will take part. They are the biggest investors into Russia, and, basically, those companies are among France’s largest public companies. Among other things, the participants include Total, Air Liquide and Renault, as well as Auchan and Leroy Merlin. Together, Auchan and Leroy Merlin are the biggest foreign employer in Russia," Shinsky said.
According to Shinsky, it will be the third meeting in this format. Traditionally, during such talks the companies inform the president about the difficulties they face while doing business in Russia. The president and the government subsequently make decisions, whenever possible, intended to boost French investment in Russia.
According to Shinsky, French businessmen are concerned about the present-day investment climate in Russia, including the negative effects of the Baring Vostok case. The Russian-French Commerce and Industry Chamber, together with other business organizations, has repeatedly warned that the case may worsen the country's investment climate.
The official said that the issue of softer pretrial custody terms for Baring Vostok top managers, including French citizen Philippe Delpal, could be raised during the meeting in this or that form.
"I think that this issue will also be raised. Possibly, not during the collective meeting itself, but one the sidelines of it. This [the Baring Vostok case] has triggered a very negative public response. None of French entrepreneurs is now feeling comfortable. The Baring Vostok case came as a shock not only to the local business community, but to the international one as well," he said. "We are living in dramatic times, with strange events flaring up around us, like fire at Notre-Dame de Paris. Our task, including at the meeting with the president, is to contain this fire and prevent it from completely destroying the entire Russian investment climate."
The Russian president regularly meets with foreign businessmen in Russia and pays special attention to the issue of increasing foreign investment. Meetings of this kind take place as part of various economic forums or are being organized as separate events.
On March 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with representatives of UK business circles in the Kremlin at a meeting requested by BP CEO Robert Dudley. Besides, the issue of supporting foreign businesses in Russia was also raised by the Russian leader during the April 3 opening of the Mercedes-Benz plant near Moscow.
Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal case into the embezzlement of 2.5 bln rubles ($37.5 mln) from the Vostochny Bank on February 13. Michael Calvey, the founder of the Baring Vostok private equity firm, is the key defendant in the case. On February 15, law enforcement agencies arrested Calvey and five others: Vagan Abgaryan, partner at Baring Vostok, Philippe Delpal, an investment partner for the financial industry sector at Baring Vostok, Ivan Zyuzin, Investment Director at Baring Vostok and also General Director of the First Collection Bureau Maxim Vladimirov and Advisor to the Management Board of Norvik Bank Alexey Kordichev. They are all facing charges under part 4 article 159 of Russia’s Criminal Code (fraud committed on a large scale by an organized group).
According to the investigation, Calvey and his accomplices put together a scheme, where the "First Collection Bureau", under their control, waived its right to a 59.9% stake in a Luxembourg-based company called the International Financial Technology Group (IFTG), to the Vostochny bank to pay it back for a 2.5 bln-ruble debt. Before the deal, IFTG’s shares were valued at 3 bln rubles. However, the investigation is examining another estimate of 600,000 rubles (according to a Cyprus-based company’s valuation). That said, the Central Bank claimed that the price of these shares was close to zero, the investigator noted. Calvey rejected all charges saying that bogus charges against him were caused by a "corporate conflict" in the bank.