Russia’s leading anti-corruption activist and a candidate in next year’s presidential election was found guilty of embezzlement Wednesday and will likely be blocked from continuing his political campaign.
Alexei Navalny was convicted by a judge in Kirov, a city 500 miles east of Moscow. He received a five-year suspended sentence and a fine of about $8,400.
He was on trial for the second time for embezzling money from a state-owned timber firm. His earlier conviction by the same court in 2013 was overturned in November last year. The Russian Supreme Court said the trial was unfair.
Navalny, 40, has always denied wrongdoing and claimed he was prosecuted to remove him from politics. A criminal conviction is a bar to running for office in Russia.
He was retried this month. After his conviction Wednesday, he said the new judge copied the earlier decision against him word for word, including spelling errors.
Navalny leads the opposition Party of Progress. He announced his candidacy for president in December last year after the Supreme Court overturned his earlier conviction.
He has called current Russian President Vladimir Putin “the Tsar of corruption” and labelled Putin’s ruling United Russia party “the party of crooks and thieves.”
Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013. He lost to the incumbent, Sergei Sobyanin, a Putin crony. But he won nearly 30 percent of the vote, surprising the Kremlin.
He trained as a lawyer. In 2010, he published what he said was evidence of a $4 billion fraud at Transneft, a state-owned firm with a monopoly on transporting oil produced in Russia.
Navalny led mass protests in December 2011 against parliamentary elections he said were rigged. He also led protests in Moscow after Putin’s re-election in March 2012.
Putin hasn’t said if he’ll run again in 2018.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.