He stated that the investigation suggested that he admit his guilt in exchange for the freedom of his wife and threatened to take away the children. Forbes publishes the text of the entrepreneur's speech.
The co-owner of Rive Gauche, August Meyer, spoke at the Moscow District Court of St. Petersburg, which was considering a motion for his arrest. The American entrepreneur communicated with the court in English through an interpreter. The video of the speech was published by the press service of the courts of St. Petersburg.
Thank you, Your Honor, for the opportunity to speak. The main reason [of the investigation. - Forbes], as I understand it, is that I can escape. This, of course, is not the case. It has been five years since the first charges were brought in the case. But my wife and I then made the decision to stay here, although we had the opportunity to leave.
For five years, while the investigation is underway, I always appeared on the first call. And he did not leave even after a terrible search in our apartment, during which my children were terrorized. I had many opportunities not to return [to Russia from my trips. - Forbes], but I have always done it, which is proved by my passport, which you have. Moreover, I will not run away now, when I have neither intentions nor opportunities for this. There is no doubt that I will appear at all court hearings.
The second reason, as I understand it, is that when I am free I can influence the witnesses. But, as I said, the investigation has been going on for five years. Investigators spent a lot of resources and energy on collecting evidence, and if there were attempts to influence witnesses or destroy documents, they would definitely notify about it.
I'm not sure if it's clear where my wife and I live. Let me explain briefly. We have been living together since we got married. We bring up children together, we have a healthy marriage. We have two apartments, which are located next door and in which we live together.
I believe that both arguments, that I can hide or influence the witnesses, are obviously groundless. The facts confidently prove that on these grounds I should be released.
Let me remind you that the case has been under way for five years. Investigators have appeared in many courts and argued about this offense. They want everyone to be in custody while they investigate (gestures with quotes), [Yulmart co-founders and manager. - Forbes] Kostygin, Fedorinov, Shonurov and others were summoned, I don’t know, 20 times already. But in fact it never came to trial. Investigators do not have enough substantiated evidence, and they do not want to bring the case to trial, where we can defend ourselves. In my opinion, this is misleading the court.
I was shocked yesterday. This investigator (points a finger into the hall) saw me for the first time and immediately said that if I admit my guilt, then my wife would be released (crying). Is it permissible to hold your wife hostage? We have that, 1931, the Soviet Union? They simply threatened that if my wife and I were arrested, our children would be taken into the care of the state (cries).
Sorry, Your Honor. I know that you know how critical the independence of the judiciary is. I expressed my opinion. I do not intend to hide and do not pose a danger to society.
August Meyer is an American-born businessman who received Russian citizenship. In Russia, Meyer has invested, among other things, in the retail chains Yulmart, Rive Gauche and Smile Rainbow. In 2021, the entrepreneur took the 181st place in the ranking of the richest Russian businessmen according to Forbes: his fortune was estimated at $ 650 million.
Meyer and his wife and business partner Inna were detained in St. Petersburg on December 8. They are facing fraud charges. According to Kommersant, the arrest is connected with the case of the theft from Sberbank of 2.3 billion rubles, issued for the development of Yulmart shortly before its collapse. On December 9, the court arrested Meyer at the request of the investigation. For Inna Meyer, the investigation asked for house arrest, the press service of the St. Petersburg courts reported.