A Russian banker awaiting trial on organized crime charges has taken out a full-page newspaper ad to give a New Year’s Eve warning to businesspeople that they too could face a similar fate.
Alexander Popov’s message in the Vedomosti business daily Wednesday comes as Russian authorities consider limiting the use of organized-crime laws in corporate disputes and economic crimes. President Vladimir Putin extended punishments, including adding life sentences, for crime bosses this year.
Popov, Tolyattikhimbank’s executive for nearly two decades until this fall, faces up to 20 years on suspicion of major fraud and tax evasion in addition to creating and participating in an organized criminal group. Moscow’s Basmanny district court extended his pre-trial detention until Feb. 1, 2020.
“Happy New Year, dear businessmen! The end of December: gifts, traffic jams, parties,” opens Popov’s ad shared by New York Times reporter Ivan Nechepurenko.
“You’re getting ready to go on vacation, but tomorrow you can go to prison,” Popov continues.
Dozens of businesspeople and entrepreneurs are currently awaiting trial under the organized-crime article, Popov says in the full-page ad. He noted that the authorities do not disclose the number of people charged with organized crime.
The Kremlin is considering reforming the contentious law after Russia’s Supreme Court called for fewer prosecutions of entrepreneurs under the organized-crime statute.
“Indeed, this topic has been discussed at a number of meetings and, indeed, we’re in the final stages of formulating positions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying Wednesday.
Peskov declined to say when the reforms would be put forward, the state-run TASS news agency reported.