MOSCOW (Reuters) -A Russian court of cassation on Thursday said U.S. investor Michael Calvey had pleaded guilty to embezzling 2.5 billion roubles ($27.7 million), the Interfax news agency reported.

Calvey, who has maintained his innocence until now, could not immediately be reached for comment. Reuters called lawyer Timofei Gridnev, who has previously defended Calvey in court. The person who answered the phone swiftly hung up.

Calvey, the founder of Russia-focused private equity group Baring Vostok, was detained along with other executives in early 2019 on charges of embezzlement linked to mid-sized lender Vostochny. Until now, Calvey has always denied the charges.

In 2021, he was given a 5-1/2 year suspended sentence, which was commuted to 4-1/2 years in 2023. Interfax said his pleading guilty had led the court to commute his sentence by a further two months.

Calvey and his colleagues were initially placed in pre-trial detention and then house arrest, although those restrictions were eased in November 2020, before the defendants were found guilty and sentenced in August 2021.

Restrictive measures were further eased in 2022, allowing Calvey to leave Russia. His lawyer told Reuters in March 2023 that he was waiting for a visa and intended to fight the case.

It was not immediately clear whether Calvey was in Russia at the time of the cassation court hearing.

($1 = 90.3675 roubles)

(Writing by Alexander Marrow in London; additional reporting by Felix Light; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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