Russia's leading anti-corruption whistleblower is facing an investigation for damaging interests of a timber company, Russian officials said Tuesday.
Lawyer Alexei Navalny is being probed for allegedly using his position of a regional governor's adviser to force a timber company into an unfavorable deal, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Tuesday. The committee is Russia's top investigative body.
Navalny rose to prominence a few years ago when he embarked on a one-man crusade against a handful of Russia's state-owned companies, suing them for a greater access to their documents and more accountability in their spending.
He also set up a website that tracks down suspicious online government tenders for goods and services. The website says it has unearthed suspicious orders worth 16 billion rubles ($573 million) and made authorities cancel state orders worth 337 million rubles ($12 million).
The lawyer has so far attracted some 6.7 million rubles ($240,000) in private donations which helped him employ two other lawyers to trace and appeal murky deals. In one of the most glaring examples of tender abuse, the Interior Ministry famously ordered a gilded bed for its suburban residence but was forced to cancel that order amid Navalny's campaigning.
Investigators say Navalny is suspected of damaging interests of timber producer Kirovles by making the company's director sign a deal to sell the timber to another firm. The transaction, the investigators claim, added a 1.3 million ruble ($46,6000) loss to the company's balance sheet.
Nikita Belykh, governor of the Kirov region where Kirovles is based, wrote in his blog in December _ when police were first looking into Navalny's activities _ that his former adviser is innocent.
Belykh said Navalny was carrying out his orders to bring more transparency into the industry. He also complained that police took no action against the firm's director, whom he suspects of mismanaging the company.
Navalny's efforts came under fire last week when a Russian web-search engine revealed that its web-money service had been forced to divulge personal information about donors to Navalny's website to Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB). Neither the search engine nor the FSB gave any explanation for that request.
Navalny wrote in his blog Tuesday that he had not been notified of any proceedings and pledged to keep on campaigning. A staunch critic of Russian courts and police, Navalny expressed confidence that even the most corrupt court in the world "will hardly manage to pass a guilty verdict on that total nonsense clumsily made up by policemen."