July 20, 2013 by AK
I’m reposting a comment from a Guardian discussion thread with minor changes.
What are the charges against Navalny? He is accused of using his position as adviser to the Kirov governor back in 2011 for personal gain. Navalny allegedly forced a state-owned company in the Kirov region (“Kirovles”) to sell timber to a firm under his control (“VLK”) at a below-market price.
As one Russian lawyer has pointed out in this thread, there is no corpus delicti, i.e. there is no evidence of the crime having been committed. Anyone can check VLK’s accounts, its purchase contracts and invoices – Navalny has made them public: here and here (Russian only).
Apparently, VLK was a timber trader while the state-owned Kirovles had major difficulties selling its substandard timber in a time of crisis (Russia’s GDP contracted by 8% in 2009). I understand that VLK found buyers for about 5% of Kirovles’ output and resold it for a 7% gross margin – nothing outrageous by Russian standards as Russia is a high transaction cost environment generally. The margin was enough to cover VLK’s SG&A expenses but not suggestive of outrageous profits. In fact, VLK posted a net loss in 2009.
Nor is there any evidence that Navalny was a beneficiary of VLK rather than simply its owner’s friend.
The case should not have gone to trial.