ENGLISH VERSION: ”It has to do with his Christian activity as a well known Protestant leader”. “Portal-Credo.Ru” interview with co-chairman of the Slavic Legal Center, the defense lawyer of of Rev. Alexander Semchenko VLADIMIR RIAKHOVSKY
“Portal-Credo.Ru”: Could you, as a defense lawyer of the President of Commonwealth of Evangelical Christians of Russia Rev. A. Semchenko, comment on the criminal accusations against him?
Vladimir Riakhovsky: As of today, the defense has not seen the entire file of evidence against him yet. But based on what we have seen and what we know, we can talk about lack of reasons for charges and of biased nature of investigation.
So far there are two criminal cases opened against him – on Bolshoi Theater and on Maly Theater construction works. The two cases have not been merged yet.
The main line of the accusation is this. He had received the 100% prepayment for certain works according to contracts, but failed to fulfill the works. For example, he has not built three thermo cameras. We came to the location and showed the investigators two of the cameras in full order. They say no, these are not the same cameras, for they do not correspond with the blueprints we have. We say: Your blueprints have nothing to do with the actual blueprints used in the project.
Now the third thermo camera has not been built indeed, for the reason that necessary permits had not been granted. But to compensate for overpayment, the prepaid amount was later subtracted from payment for other objects within the same contract. As we make this point, the investigator replies that other objects are of no interest to him, he is investigating the thermo cameras. So we are now appealing his refusal to consider the entire contract.
So it is evident that the prosecution has no grounds for indictment in this, first, case. Some rules may have been violated, such as signing the act of completion first, and completing the work later. But the charge of defrauding requires something to be defrauded of, some money missing. That is not the case here, as later payments within the contract reflect compensation for earlier overpayments. That’s what I can say about the case # 1, on Maly Theater.
The second case that mass-media talk about concerns the Bolshoi Theater. Here the accusations are just as groundless. In this case Semchenko’s company acted as a general contractor. He hired various subcontractors who actually carried out specific works and reported to him. Then they received money from him for completed sections of the contract. So you simply cannot blame him for some work not done, without blaming those subcontractors. But that is exactly what the prosecutors are trying to do.
This case began with a complaint from one of the subcontractors who claimed that he was not paid in full for his work. To this Semchenko replies that the reason for that was exactly the fact that the work was not done in full. So here also we find no ground for accusations of defrauding.
So we might ask, who is the originator of the criminal prosecution, who would benefit from it.
At this point we can only guess. We may suspect that some competitor wants to drive him out of the construction business, although Semchenko is no longer involved in the business, for more than two years.
Or, more likely, it has to do with his Christian activity as a well known Protestant leader, known especially for his financial contributions to evangelical causes. But we cannot be certain whose will the prosecutors are carrying out.
And here I must mention one error that some media made. His house arrest is not “a softer measure of detention” or “he could have been in prison”. No, he could not have. The recently passed law does not allow such a detention measure as imprisonment for “entrepreneurial crimes”. So he was given the strictest measure of detention possible.
- What are the restrictions of the house arrest?
The court has forbidden him to leave his apartment except in emergencies, to answer the phone, to make public statements, etc. Considering his age and health (recent stroke, among other things), depriving him of walks for some fresh air does not seem reasonable.
He is not allowed to contact anyone who is involved in the trial, even the witnesses for the defense. The prosecution, however, is free to contact anyone they wish. But the law guarantees equal rights to the prosecution and the defense. Some equality!
He cannot make any statements for mass media. The prosecution is free to (and actually does) give the press their side, presenting him as a criminal. But he cannot respond. We argue that this is unconstitutional and violates the principle of equality of the prosecution and the defense.
He is forbidden to make phone calls and to answer e-mail. Why cannot I, his defense lawyer, communicate with him using these means?
- Are you going to appeal these restrictions?
We have, but there is a little hope that we win.
Besides being a lawyer, you are also known as a Christian. What can you say about persecuting Rev. Semchenko as a Protestant leader?
As I said, we can only guess what the real reasons for this criminal case are. Is this his construction business? He has left it. Are they trying to ruin his reputation as a Christian leader? Then this is discrimination on religious grounds, which the Constitution of Russia prohibits.
By Vladimir Oivin, «Portal-Credo.Ru»