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Deal in case that led to US investor's arrest in Russia

The arrest of US investor Michael Calvey, pictured here in 2019, and other executives of Baring Vostok, one of Russia's oldest private equity groups, sent shockwaves through the country's business community

The Russia-based investment fund Baring Vostok and its former partners said Wednesday they had reached a settlement in a dispute which led to the arrest of US financier Michael Calvey in 2019.

Several Baring Vostok executives, including its founder Calvey and French banker Philippe Delpal, were detained last year and accused of defrauding Vostochny Bank of 2.5 billion rubles ($31.7 million).

Wednesday's settlement was not linked to the criminal case against Calvey and his associates but some experts suggested that following the announcement they could eventually be released from house arrest.

In a joint statement, Baring Vostok and Russian banker Artyom Avetisyan -- the shareholders of Vostochny Bank -- announced they had "settled their corporate dispute" and all claims in Russian and foreign courts and arbitrations would be withdrawn.

The statement said that the settlement agreement "is in no way concerned with the criminal case against former directors of Vostochny Bank."

Vostochny, controlled by Avetisyan, said in a statement on Wednesday that a company in Baring Vostok's portfolio would pay back the 2.5 billion roubles. 

"After receipt of the money, the bank plans to withdraw the civil claims submitted as part of the criminal case," it said, referring to the case launched against Calvey and his associates.

Russian prosecutors earlier Wednesday confirmed the criminal charges against Baring Vostok executives and said the case would soon go to trial.

- 'Damaging' for Russian economy -

Chris Weafer, a veteran Russia analyst and founder of Macro Advisory consultancy, said that he now expected the criminal charges to be removed by the prosecutor and the case ended.

"Hopefully that takes place by year end so that those involved can start the New Year without this dreadful threat hanging over them," Weafer told AFP.

"This has been one of the most damaging events in Russia's economic history and has directly led to foreign investment decisions in Russia being cancelled or suspended."

The case of Baring Vostok, one of Russia's oldest private equity groups, sent shockwaves through the country's business community.

Calvey, who is highly respected in Russian investment circles, has worked in Russia for more than 20 years and has steered clear of politics.

The ordeal has drawn international attention including that of French President Emmanuel Macron.

The Kremlin had previously said that it was "carefully monitoring" the developments in the case.

Baring Vostok has invested in some of the biggest companies in the country including tech giant Yandex and Ozon, a top online retailer.

Russia's business ombudsman Boris Titov has criticised the charges against the investment fund while ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin said the case caused capital flight from Russia to double.

The suspects in the case -- Calvey, Delpal and four Russian citizens -- remain under house arrest.

They have denied their guilt and insisted the case was fabricated in an attempt by minority shareholders of Vostochny to gain control over the bank.

A seventh suspect, Alexei Kordichev, pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators.