Goldovsky Set Free for $630,000

VedomostiGoldovsky, left, and Koshchits during proceedings on the first day of their trial Aug. 1.
After rejecting three previous requests, a Moscow court Monday released the former president of Russia's largest petrochemical holding on bail of 20 million rubles ($630,000).

The presiding judge also ruled earlier in the day to close hearings on the case to the public.

The publicized trial of two former Sibur executives, president Yakov Goldovsky and vice president Yevgeny Koshchits, is one of the few remaining vestiges of the power struggle that took place earlier this year at Gazprom, which is the controlling owner of Sibur.

Goldovsky has said his actions at the helm of Sibur were only construed as crimes after the Kremlin installed new management at Gazprom last year.

Federal prosecutors have charged both Goldovsky and Koshchits with abuse of authority, money laundering and large-scale appropriation of entrusted property. Goldovsky has also been charged with knowingly using fake documentation.

After Monday's proceedings, Anatoly Kleimyonov, Goldovsky's lawyer, told journalists that he asked the judge to reconsider his arguments for the executive's release from a medical institution. Goldovsky is in poor health and is to undergo a complicated operation, Kleimyonov said.

Goldovsky has promised not to flee upon his release and swore not to pressure witnesses in the case.

Government prosecutor Dmitry Shokhin did not object to Goldovsky's release.

The lawsuit against Goldovsky has taken many twists and turns since early January, when the Prosecutor General's Office announced the opening of its criminal case with a raid on Sibur headquarters in southwest Moscow.

At first, the investigation, which prosecutors admitted was prompted by Gazprom itself, centered on the sale of a natural gas-refining plant in Surgut worth 2.6 billion rubles. They turned their attention to other transactions involving factories in Sibur's production chain once it became clear that Gazprom had actually approved the Surgut sale.

The trial got off to a surprising start Aug. 1 as representatives of plaintiff Sibur and Gazprom withdrew their civil suits. Prosecutors, however, clung to their criminal charges, and on the first day of hearings, Shokhin described the elaborate scheme Goldovsky and his alleged criminal group used to purchase industrial assets for themselves with company money.

Judge Lyubov Zvyagina of Moscow's Gagarin district court released Koshchits on bail of 2 million rubles last week. She cited his weakened health and family situation as reasons for his release.

Zvyagina closed the trial proceedings to the public just as key witnesses, including former Gazprom CEO Rem Vyakhirev, were to take the stand. Vyacheslav Sheremet, a former deputy CEO at Gazprom who was arrested with Goldovsky and Koshchits but later released at Vyakhirev's request, is also scheduled to testify.

Zvyagina told the court that the publicity aroused by the trial was harmful to the judicial process. "My decision is tied to articles in the press that insulted the honor and dignity of the court," she said.

The Sibur trial has been adjourned until Aug. 14, when questioning of witnesses is set to continue.