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Russian accounts frozen in VTB France Bank over Yukos case unblocked — VTB24 CEO

July 09, 2015, 21:49 UTC+3 VOLGOGRAD
VTB
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© ITAR-TASS/Pavel Smertin

VOLGOGRAD, July 9. /TASS/. The accounts of Russian companies frozen earlier in VTB France Bank over the Yukos case have been unblocked, CEO of VTB24, a retail banking arm of Russia's number 2 lender VTB, Mikhail Zadornov said Thursday.

"All demands were appealed against and literally within one day the accounts were unblocked," he said.

The information about the arrest of Russians companies’ accounts in VTB’s French subsidiary was confirmed by the bank’s President on June 18. Several days prior to that Belgian court bailiffs submitted to a number of Russian companies operating on the territory of the country as well as to banks serving them, a binding over to present a list of assets in their disposal within 15-day period for further enforcement of the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague passed in July 2014.

Back then, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague passed a ruling obliging Russia to pay $50 billion compensation to former Yukos shareholders who claimed $100 billion from Moscow. In its final awards, the arbitration tribunal unanimously ruled that Russia "had taken measures with the effect equivalent to an expropriation of claimants’ investments in Yukos and thus had breached the Energy Charter Treaty." Russia, which signed but did not ratify the Energy Charter Treaty, has repeatedly said it categorically disagrees with the Hague tribunal’s ruling.

The Russian Finance Ministry said in late July last year the conclusions by the Arbitration Tribunal ran counter to the conclusions of the European Court of Human Rights. "The European Court of Human Rights has concluded twice that Yukos committed large-scale tax evasion and its management was aware of violations, that all extra tax payments required from Yukos were lawful and legitimate and that Yukos was not discriminated against and the actions by the Russian authorities were not politically motivated," the Russian Finance Ministry said in a statement at that time. Also, the Hague Arbitration Court had no jurisdiction to examine issues raised before it, the Russian Finance Ministry said.

Yukos, once Russia’s largest oil firm, was accused of tax crimes and declared a bankrupt by a court ruling in 2006 while its assets were sold at auctions during the liquidation procedure. Yukos former head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were found guilty of embezzlement and tax evasion in May 2005 and sentenced to nine years in prison. While serving their prison term, both Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering in a second criminal case in December 2010 and sentenced to 14 years in prison, with account taken of the jail term they had served. Khodorkovsky was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin and left the prison in December 2013. Lebedev was released from the jail in early 2014.

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