Usmanov vs. FBK: How the Billionaire Pursues Opposition in Court
The Federal Bailiff Service demands that Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) deletes the fragments of the film He Is Not Dimon To You, in which businessman Alisher Usmanov appears. The Fund says that the court's decision has been executed, and the FSSP is interested in instituting proceedings against its director Roman Rubanov. Russiangate recalls how the conflict between Alisher Usmanov and Alexei Navalny developed.
HE IS NOT DIMON TO YOU
On March 2, the Anti-Corruption Foundation published an investigation called He Is Not Dimon To You, which describes the corrupt empire of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, consisting of charitable organizations that are registered in his trusted persons’ names.
On the same day, FBK director Roman Rubanov appealed to the Investigative Committee with a request to initiate a bribery case against Dmitry Medvedev and founder of USM Holdings Alisher Usmanov, the oligarch, who appears in the investigation. According to FBK, in 2010, Usmanov handed over to the Fund for Support of Socially Significant State Projects (presumably belongs to Medvedev) a land plot with a house worth 5 billion rubles in the village of Znamenskoye near Moscow. According to the Fund’s investigators, since Usmanov's work is connected with state contracts and Medvedev's decisions, there are grounds to consider the transfer of the site as a bribe.
On April 11, in an interview with the newspaper Vedomosti, Usmanov said that the deal regarding the land plot is just an exchange of real estate.
“I have long been looking for an opportunity to expand my plot, where I have lived for more than 20 years, so I proposed to exchange their plot – 12 hectares – for my sister's one in the distance from me and with an already built house <...> 12 hectares on Rublyovka on the shore the Moscow River cost about $ 50 million. The 4 hectares land handed over to me costs about $ 15-20 million, and the house amounts to another $ 30 million. So the balance is about 50 to 50 <...> What is it, a bribe? It’s not a bribe at all!” Usmanov explained.
The businessman also said that he would sue the founder of FBK, Alexei Navalny.
Navalny commented on this on his Twitter: "Oh, Alisher Usmanov (who spent 6 years in the Uzbek SSR prison) says I am a “criminal” and that he will file an “application to the authorities” against me.
USMANOV’S LAWSUIT AGAINST FBK
On April 12, Alisher Usmanov filed a lawsuit against Alexei Navalny and FBK. The oligarch demanded to refute the information about bribery, underpaid taxes, rape, illegally seizure of mining and processing enterprises and imposed censorship in his publishing house Kommersant. As a confirmation, Usmanov provided the ruling of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan, from which it follows that the verdict regarding the businessman on the three articles was recalled on rehabilitating grounds. Moreover, those three articles did not include rape.
Lublin Court of Moscow scheduled a hearing on Usmanov’s lawsuit for May 30.
FBK lawyers asked to stop the proceedings, explaining that the claim should be considered in a commercial court, since it is related to Usmanov's business activities.
On May 18, the billionaire published a video message to Alexei Navalny on his page on the social network Vkontakte. In it, Usmanov states that he was actually in prison, but his criminal case was deemed framed up, unlike the conviction of the opposition politician.
“Of us two, you are the criminal” Usmanov said. He also called Navalny “ignorant,” “loser,” and “a failed businessman.”
“Unlike you, I paid for everything with my work, my abilities, honesty, by the way. And you will never be able to slander me. You still have to answer before me, Lesha,” said Usmanov. In the end, he added: “And your attempts to belie me is like a pug barking at an elephant. Darn you, Alexei Navalny!”
The head of FBK published Usmanov's video message on his YouTube channel. In the annotation to the video, he said that thanks to the activities of FBK, the businessman became a video blogger. Navalny also promised to “answer at all the points.”
Later, the politician organized a live broadcast, during which he said that he would not apologize to Usmanov. According to Navalny, the oligarch’s video message was recorded by the Kremlin’s order.
“Here is my explanation of this situation: it is, of course, an order given by the Kremlin. Perhaps, by Medvedev, perhaps, by Putin himself, in order to simply displace the discussion. They do not want to have a confrontation “we are all against Medvedev and Putin.” <...> They want this to be a confrontation between Navalny and Usmanov. Let him abuse oligarchs, not us,” Navalny said. He also said that Usmanov's video was recorded on a yacht worth € 400 million. In this context, the politician once again accused Usmanov of evading taxes.
The FBK founder stated that he would post a video response to Usmanov in a week and noted that he was not afraid to come to a possible debate with Alisher Usmanov and was ready to organize it in the FBK office.
On May 23, the oligarch published a new video message to Navalny. In it, Usmanov compared the politician with Poligraph Sharikov from Mikhail Bulgakov's Heart of a Dog.
“I was actually expecting an apology, not a debate. Instead, I heard another accusation from him, a lie, cheap populism,” said the businessman. According to him, in Heart of a Dog, Bulgakov “described such a character as the one with a huge devastation in his head – Polygraph Sharikov, who dreamed of taking everything away and sharing it.”
Usmanov refused to debate with Navalny: “And anyway, what kind of debate? It's the same as making a debate between truth and lies. From now on, my debates with you will be held in a court.”
Navalny was surprised by Usmanov's new message: “My God, there is actually another video message from Usmanov. I thought it was a joke.” The politician expressed regret that the businessman refused to debate and promised to give a detailed answer and advised Usmanov “to stop driving up the likes.”
On May 24, the Russian MIA said that they found no violations of the law in the transfer of real estate of the “fund close to the Prime Minister” Sotsgorproect (Social State Project).
On May 29, Alexei Navalny published a response to Alisher Usmanov. In it, he says that a businessman privatized assets, having paid very little for that, and “hundreds of millions of dollars” of taxes are just a small part of what he actually is supposed to pay. Navalny notes that “although this whole dialogue with Usmanov takes us away from the main villains - Medvedev and Putin - it is still useful.”
On May 30, the Moscow Lublin court began considering the lawsuit filed by billionaire Alisher Usmanov. Judge Marina Vasina dismissed 22 of the 23 petitions filed by Navalny’s representatives, including the ones requesting to summon Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the hearings. Usmanov was not present at the trial, his interests were represented by a lawyer.
On the second day, on May 31, the court granted Usmanov's claim for protection of honor and dignity and ordered Navalny and FBK to remove and refute statements about the businessman's involvement in corruption and information about his alleged criminal record for rape, and publish a refutation in a period of not less than three months.
The FBK was obliged to delete this information within 10 days from the moment of the decision enters into legal force. Navalny, in turn, announced that he was not going to execute this decision.
THE CASE OF THE SOTSGOSPROEKT FOUNDATION
On June 19, the Sotsgosproekt Foundation owned by Ilya Yeliseyev, who is a classmate of Dmitry Medvedev, filed a pre-trial claim against Navalny and FBK with a request to remove fragments of the FBK video He Is Not Dimon to You. The organization was asked to publish a refutation of this information within 10 days, threatening otherwise to go to court.
On June 29, Navalny appealed against the decision of the Lublin court obliging him to remove the information defamatory against businessman Alisher Usmanov and the film He Is Not Dimon to You.
On August 4, the Sotsgosproekt Foundation filed a lawsuit to protect the honor and dignity against Navalny and FBK.
On August 7, Navalny’s defense called the suit filed by the Sotsgosproekt Foundation groundless and asked Ilya Yeliseyev to stand trial as a witness.
On August 11, the Moscow City Court considered Alexei Navalny's complaint against the decision of the Lublin District Court, which granted Alisher Usmanov’s claim on protection of honor and dignity. It partially changed this decision and ordered FBK to remove only the fragments of the film contested by Usmanov.
On September 20, the Moscow Lublin court granted the lawsuit of the Sotsgosproekt Foundation and ordered the FBK to remove a fragment of the investigation which says that billionaire Alisher Usmanov gave Sotsgosproekt a 5 billion ruble manor as a bribe to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Navalny said that he would not do this and appealed the decision of the court.
On October 10, director of FBK Roman Rubanov was detained at the entrance of his own house, after which he was taken to the Federal Bailiff Service (FSSP) office in Moscow. Rubanov said that the Federal Bailiff Service is interested in instituting criminal proceedings against him under Art. 315 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (failure to execute a court verdict). In FBK, they insist that they fully complied with the instructions of the court and removed fragments of the video about Usmanov from the film.
Rubanov stressed that FBK employees cannot be held responsible for the videos posted on the personal Youtube channel of FBK founder Alexei Navalny, as well as on the website dimon.navalny.com, since these resources belong to Navalny, not to the fund.