MOSCOW, October 13 (RAPSI) — The Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court has canceled all lower courts’ decisions extending the term of detention of businessman Konstantin Ponomarev, known for his legal battles with IKEA, his lawyer Anna Stavitskaya has told RAPSI.

The lawyer reminded that the highest instance initiated proceedings in the Ponomarev case after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that the arrest of the businessman and the extensions of his detention had violated his rights guaranteed by Article 5.3 and 5.4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ECHR ruled that detention of the businessman in the pretrial detention facility (more than three years) was excessively long and indicated that national courts, when extending the detention period, relied mainly on the gravity of the charges, without citing specific facts relevant to the case, without assessing the applicant's personal situation and without considering the possibility of using alternative measures of restraint. The Presidium of the Supreme Court agreed with this position, Stavitskaya said.

In total, the Supreme Court overturned 18 lower courts decisions concerning the measure of restraint for Ponomarev in the first criminal case against him.

At the end of 2020, a court in the Moscow Region’s town of Solnechnogorsk sentenced Ponomarev to 10 years and 2 months in a penal colony having found him guilty of tax evasion, attempted fraud with diesel generators, fined him 900,000 rubles ($12,000) and forfeited the disputed diesel generators to the state.

The sentence was cumulated with a previous punishment given to the entrepreneur in a false denunciation case.

Investigators claimed that after one of the victories in court against IKEA Ponomarev’s company received 25 billion rubles ($340 million) from the furniture corporation and the businessman transferred the money to his own bank account. In this situation, he was to pay income taxes and VAT but failed. Thus, the total amount of unpaid taxes was estimated as 9.7 billion rubles ($132 million), according to the investigation. Ponomarev and his defense insisted in turn that the company did not simply transfer the funds but transferred them in accordance with a custodial services contract. Therefore, an income tax must not be demanded by officials.

A second count was related to the lend lease of diesel generators for prime power organization in Crimea. Investigators claim that the entrepreneur demanded over 5.4 billion rubles in court from lease takers.

This is the second case against Ponomarev.

On July 9, 2019, a court in Lyubertsy, a town in the Moscow Region, found Ponomarev guilty of false denunciation and passed the sentence on him. His lawyer Maxim Zagorsky received 7 years and 8 months behind bars. He was also banned from practicing law for 3 years. A judge held that the defendants committed several crimes related to evidence simulation. The attorney was an organizer of the criminal group, the ruling read.

In mid-October 2019, the Moscow Regional Court recalculated the term of actual punishment given to Ponomarev and reduced it by 6.5 months. Actual punishment of Zagorsky in the case was also recalculated. The sentence came into force.

The trial of Ponomarev and Zagorsky began in December 2018. Investigators considered initiation of criminal proceedings by a private person on Ponomarev’s appeal as false denunciation. The defendants pleaded not guilty and insisted on acquittal.

Ponomarev was embroiled in a long-standing dispute with IKEA that opted to rent diesel generators to power its shopping malls in St. Petersburg. Five criminal cases were opened against the businessman at the request of the Swedish retailer. However, a probe over alleged fraud found nothing, and the cases were dropped.

The businessman believes that the false denunciation case was resulted from the conflict with IKEA. Ponomarev claims that the company thus wants to stretch the time and siphon assets in order to avoid paying a multibillion debt to him.