Хотя и в этом случае происходящее больше напоминает цирк, чем суд.
Arkady Gontmakher, two co-defendents, fully aquitted by jury in Petropavlosk in major crab case
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton - Dec 16, 2010 - A jury has acquitted Arkady Gontmakher, the former president of Global Fishing and Abdel Aziz Embarek, president of Eastern Fish Resources, along with a third co-defendent, of all charges in connection with a high profile crab poaching case.
The Russian prosecutors accused Gontmakher and his co-defendents of an elaborate scheme to harvest and sell illegal crab. The trial was over sales of crab worth $58 million.
At the preliminary hearing for the case which has been going on since May of 2010, the Judge granted the request for a jury trial. 'At trial, the defendants pleaded not guilty. The decision of the jury was that all the defendants were fully acquitted of the charges,' according to Interfax who quoted The Far East Press Secretary of the Regional Court Tatiana Sakhno.
According to investigators, the alleged participants created an international group in 2006-2007 and were engaged in illegal crab fishing and caused damage to the state 11.5 billion rubles. The prosecution claims that in 2007 the accused illegally harvested more than 9 million pounds of raw crab worth over the established quota worth about $ 58 million.
The Russian government also sued the defendents for 5 billion roubles. They appear to have won this legal battle as well.
The basis for the complete acquittal is the jury's verdict. However, the court secretary says the not-guilty verdict can still be appealed on legal grounds.
Gontmakher, now an American citizen although originally from Ukraine, has been held in Russian prisons for over three years during the course of the arrest, prosecution and trial.
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton - Dec 17, 2010 - Saturday morning in Petropavlosk Arkady Gontmakher was released on his own recognizance, with instructions not to leave the area. This comes one day after his full acquittal by a jury in the first trial on accusations of crab poaching, and then his immediate re-arrest in the courtroom.
Gontmakher and two associates are the most visible parties in the Russian government's case against crab poaching. The prosecutors say that in 2006, Gontmakher and others organized the taking of 21,000 tons of red and blue king crab, although they had legitimate quota allocations of only 1.5 tons. In 2007, the government says the parties organized the taking of 2.6 thousand tons, although they had quotas for only 15 tons. Total value of the damage to Russian resources is estimated at $545 million.
However, the case against Gontmakher and his co-defendants that recently concluded in Kamchatka focused only on charges related to the 2007 fishing season.
The court case consisted of 170 volumes of charges. However, at the conclusion of the trial, 30 questions were delivered to the jury. They answered 'NO' to every question, including whether a crime had been committed.
According to a news report in BFM, the lawyers for the defendants argued that there was no evidence of illegal activity on the part of their clients. No vessel was caught in the act of overfishing. The defendants claimed they never forged any documents, but simply accepted documents given them by Russian captains.
The lawyers argued that these captains, who testified against the defendants in court, were tainted, in that they were told they would face charges unless they gave the 'right' testimony.
The lawyers said the only real clue the investigation found was evidence on Gontmakher's computer, that was siezed when he was arrested in Moscow. However, the lawyers argued that this evidence was illegal and possibly tampered, because the computers were searched a week before any charges were brought, and that during that time they could have been altered.
The jury bought these arguments, voting 12 -0 to acquit.
However, the acquittal did not bring Gontmakher's release. As soon as he thanked the jury, saying: 'I am very pleased that in Russia there are people who are able to make objective decisions, do not depend on Russia's justice', he was approached by three men in plain clothes
Here is the report from VestiPK, a local website:
'One of the 'not guilty', Arkady Gontmacher, was soon back in handcuffs. Right in the well of the court, three men in civilian clothes presented him with a summons to be a witness in the investigation of another matter.
He refused, saying that he would get back to them with his lawyers.
The MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) officers said that his lawyers were there in the court, to which Mr Gontmacher replied that, possibly, those lawyers of his would not be suitable, and that under the law he had the right for five days to choose a defender. Then one of the MVD officers took out of pocket an arrest warrant, and muscled the recently released off to the local jail. There they read him an indictment concerning a new criminal charge based on different considerations related to the illegal catching of crab and announced that he was a suspect in this new matter.
The law allows Gontmacher to be held for 48 hours. On Saturday 18 December he will be taken to court to hear a detention request.'
Gontmakher and his attorneys have also threatened to sue the investigators in Moscow. However it is not clear what damages they could get.
As to the new charges, it appears that the case is about crab poaching in 2006, and that both Gontmakher and his co-defendants Alexander Suslov and Aziz Embarek are targets.
The latest twist is that in a court hearing on Saturday (today in the Far East), Gontmakher was released on his own recognizance.
How the case develops from here, and whether Gontmakher will remain free or when he may be allowed to leave Russia, is very much up in the air.