MOSCOW - Michael Calvey, an American businessman who was detained in Moscow five days ago on fraud charges, has not yet had consular access, according to the head of a US-Russian trade organization.
"I've spoken to [Calvey's] colleagues, but not him, since the detention," said U.S. national Alexis O. Rodzianko, president of the Moscow-based American Chamber of Commerce in Russia. Calvey is the founding partner of the Moscow-based private equity firm Baring Vostok.
Speaking with VOA Tuesday evening in a Moscow hotel, Rodzianko, who had just left discussions about Calvey's detention with various Russian, American and European members of Moscow's financial community, said: "I understand [Calvey] has met with his lawyers; I understand that he has not yet had consular contact — that's as of lunchtime today."
According to terms of the Vienna Convention, consular access must be provided within a 72-hour window from the time of arrest, meaning that a member of the U.S. government should have visited Calvey in detention by now.
A State Department spokesman declined to confirm Rodzianko's assertion, citing privacy concerns, but seemed to indicate that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow is still seeking access to the businessman.
"We are aware that a U.S. citizen was arrested on February 14, 2019, in Russia," said the spokesperson, who spoke on condition of not being identified. "The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is aware of the case and will be following it closely, and will provide all appropriate consular assistance. We have no higher priority than the protection of U.S. citizens abroad."
Calvey is the second American citizen to face prosecution in Russia since Dec. 31, when Paul Whelan, a former Marine, was jailed on accusations of spying. Russia announced Whelan's detention on Dec. 31, some 24 hours after his arrest.
Whelan's family sharply criticized Russia's handling of the announcement, noting that security officials divulged his arrest hours into the start of New Year's Eve, which in Russia marks the start of a week-long national holiday. Delaying the announcement, they said, drastically decreased Whelan's chances of securing access to legal and consular resources within the mandated 72-hour window.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. was finally permitted to meet with Whelan six days after his arrest.
Calvey is facing fraud charges stemming from a protracted dispute with shareholders of Vostochny Bank, of which Baring Vostok owns 52.5 percent. He was detained along with five others, including three Baring Vostok employees, according to the Russian state news agency, RIA Novosty.
A coalition of lobby groups representing European businesses active in Russia has issued a joint statement expressing concerns about the arrest of Calvey and his colleagues.
"The detention of Baring Vostok's top management has sent shock waves through the country's business community and can potentially seriously damage the investment climate and attractiveness of Russia for foreign direct investments," it said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to make a passing reference to Calvey's case during his annual State of the Nation address to the federal assembly on Wednesday.
"Good-faith business shouldn't feel threatened by the law or constantly feel the risk of criminal or even administrative punishment," Putin said.
If convicted, Calvey faces up to 10 years in a Moscow prison.
Pete Cobus is VOA's acting Moscow correspondent.