MOSCOW — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg were indicted on charges of fraud and money laundering on Tuesday by Russia’s Investigative Committee in connection with a complaint filed by the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher, according to the government-owned news agency ITAR-TASS.
The committee opened its criminal case against the Navalnys in December 2012 after Yves Rocher accused the brothers of embezzling up to 55 million rubles, or $1.7 million at current exchange, of its funds over the course of their business dealings between 2008 and 2012.
Yves Rocher claimed the Navalnys’ logistics company, Glavnoye Podpisnoye Agenstvo, charged the firm rates almost 60 percent higher than those of the Russian Post. At the time that the two companies signed their contract, Oleg Navalny was working for the Russian Post. After approaching him, a representative of the cosmetics giant was allegedly directed to the GPA.
Yves Rocher faced a major backlash from Russian opposition earlier this year, including a call to boycott its products, as a result of the complaint the company filed against the mail carrier.
Alexei Navalny, who recently lost an electoral bid for the Moscow mayor’s office, was handed a five-year sentence in a penal colony on July 18 after being found guilty of misappropriating almost $500,000 worth of timber. That sentence was suspended in October after Navalny filed an appeal.
The former political candidate called his activities with Yves Rocher “normal commercial dealings,” according to Russian news agency Interfax. Interfax also reported Navalny believes the charges to be “absurd.”