MOSCOW, January 15 (RIA Novosti) – A Moscow court ruled Wednesday that seizing assets from opposition activist Alexei Navalny as part of an ongoing embezzlement case against him was legal, denying the politician’s appeal to have his money returned.
Moscow’s Basmanny court seized over 7 million rubles’ worth ($210,000) of bank accounts and company assets belonging to Navalny and his brother Oleg after they were charged in October with defrauding the local representative of French cosmetics company Yves Rocher.
Authorities claim the Navalny brothers have embezzled more than 26 million rubles ($778,000) from the company and another 4 million rubles ($120,000) from the Multidisciplinary Processing Company. The brothers also face charges of laundering 21 million rubles.
The Navalnys’ lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, has said there is no documentary evidence to prove her clients’ guilt and that the court did not take into account the fact that Alexei Navalny has two underage children when it ordered the assets frozen.
Investigators said that in the event of the brothers being convicted, the seized money will go toward paying back the injured parties and cover the costs of the investigation process.
The prospect of further legal troubles for Alexei Navalny follows the closure of another high-profile case against the outspoken Kremlin critic, who was convicted of fraud in July for engineering the theft of $500,000 worth of timber from a forest products company in the northern province of Kirov.
Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison in October following a trial criticized by numerous observers as being politically motivated, but walked free after just one day behind bars after a Kirov court handed him a suspended sentence.
Navalny was at the forefront of the mass anti-government protests in 2011 and 2012, and came second in the election for mayor of Moscow in September.