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Russian court keeps French banker behind bars

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Moscow (AFP)

A Moscow court on Tuesday refused to free French banker Philippe Delpal, who is in jail pending trial on fraud charges, extending his arrest to October.

Delpal, a senior executive at Baring Vostok private equity firm in Moscow, has been held behind bars since February, when he, US investor Michael Calvey, and other suspects in the controversial case were arrested.

The case has been criticised by the investment community and cast a shadow over Russia's showpiece economic forum last month in Saint-Petersburg.

Delpal had asked the court repeatedly to release him from jail to house arrest, as was previously done to Calvey, the head of Baring Vostok who was released from custody in April.

But judge Yulia Safina ordered to extend his detention by another three months, agreeing with the investigators that Delpal may "flee justice."

"I have no intention of fleeing Russia where I have lived for 15 years. My life is in Russia. Leaving is not an option because it will make me look guilty which is not the case," Delpal argued in court Tuesday.

The father of two also said he now owns a flat in Moscow where he could reside during house arrest. "Putin argued that I don't have a flat to be assigned to, well, now I do," he said.

President Vladimir Putin was questioned repeatedly about the arrested businessmen at the forum last month but insisted the matter was for the court to resolve.

Three Russian nationals are also in jail pending trial like Delpal, while another was moved to house arrest after admitting he is guilty.

Calvey on Monday asked the court to free him from house arrest on bail in order to more effectively defend himself but the judge extended his house arrest to October.

The US investor argues that the case against him has been fabricated by a rival businessman who is using the criminal justice system for his corporate benefit.

In a statement Monday, Baring Vostok said the arrested executives are key witnesses in an arbitration case over fraud set to be considered in London in January 2020.

The investigators "have been deliberately mislead by corporate raiders to justify the arrest of innocent people and to enable them to seize a commercial asset," it said.

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