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Credit Suisse manager released from Romanian jail amid probe - extended

A Romanian court freed a Credit Suisse Group manager and three other men from jail and ordered them to stay in the country while prosecutors investigate their role in selling state assets, lawyers said.

Romania's High Court of Justice released Vadim Benyatov, Credit Suisse's managing director for central and eastern Europe, and three other suspects after more than 56 days in jail, said Cristian Iordanescu, Benyatov's lawyer. „The court ruled that they aren't a danger to the public,” Iordanescu said in a telephone interview. He said Benyatov, who says he is innocent, left the jail at about 3 a.m. today. „They are ordered not to leave Romania. The court didn't say how long they have to stay.” The criminal investigation, the first involving international investment bankers in Romania since the nation's break with communism in 1990, involves eight government and foreign company officials.

Prosecutors accuse them of „undermining Romania's national security” and economic espionage related to the sale of Romanian assets. All eight men have said they have done nothing wrong. The four jailed, men were freed after the court accepted an appeal by defense lawyers. The appeals court overturned its own January 17 ruling that would have allowed the men to remain in jail until February 17. „I can't say how their release will affect the investigation,” prosecution spokesman Robert Cazanciuc said in a telephone interview. „It would obviously be easier to conduct the investigation while they are in custody.”

Credit Suisse, the second-biggest Swiss bank, said today that it will continue to press for Benyatov to be allowed to leave Romania so he can undergo medical treatment for thyroid cancer in the UK. „We could see no possible justification for detaining him during the prosecutor's investigation and we are pleased that the court has come to the same view,” the company said in an e-mail. „Two months after Vadim was first arrested, we have yet to see any evidence supporting the charges against him.”

Credit Suisse advised on the sale of Romanian energy assets in 2004 including oil company Petrom SA to Austria's OMV AG. It also won a contract from Romania in January to advise the government on the sale of its remaining 46% stake in phone company Romtelecom SA. The government on November 30 said it wants to cancel the contract with Credit Suisse for Romtelecom. Other than Benyatov, the other three men jailed November 29 were Dorinel Mucea, the deputy head of the Romanian agency in charge of energy asset sales, Stamen Stancev, a Bulgarian investment consultant, and Mihai Donciu, a Romanian Communications Ministry adviser. (Bloomberg)