Russia opens fraud investigation against Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

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The Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has already been charged with fraud. (File)

Moscow:

Russian investigators opened a criminal investigation into Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Tuesday. He claimed he used more than 356 million rubles ($ 4.8 million) in donations to his organizations for personal purposes, including holidays abroad.

The investigative committee, which investigates serious crimes, said in a statement that the money was part of more than 588 million rubles that Navalny had raised “exclusively” for its nonprofits, including the Anti-Corruption Fund.

The committee said Navalny used the money to “purchase personal property (and) material assets and pay for expenses (including vacations abroad).”

“This is how the funds raised by citizens were stolen,” added the committee, saying it had opened criminal proceedings against “particularly large-scale fraud”.

The indictment provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The 44-year-old Navalny is currently recovering from a poisoning attempt in Germany. He has said he will return to Russia as soon as his health is restored.

In August, the Kremlin critic fell seriously ill while on a flight from Siberia to Moscow and was hospitalized in the city of Omsk before being taken to Berlin by medical aircraft.

Experts in several Western countries concluded that he was poisoned with Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok – a claim that Moscow has repeatedly denied.

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Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, said the main security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), was behind the poisoning on orders from President Vladimir Putin.

On Tuesday, Navalny described the new criminal investigation against him as “invented by Putin”.

“Well, I said right away that they would try to put me in jail for not dying,” he wrote on Twitter.

Navalny has already been charged with fraud.

He was charged with fraud and money laundering in February 2014 and spent almost a year under house arrest before receiving a suspended sentence in December that year.

Last year the European supreme courts ruled that Russia had violated Navalny’s rights with the case.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)

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