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Investigators say Tuesday's searches are part of Yukos money laundering probe

December 22, 2015, 15:36 UTC+3

Searches were conducted in the apartments of the Open Russia opposition movement employees

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© ITAR-TASS/Yuri Mashkov/archive

MOSCOW, December 22. /TASS/. A series of searches that were conducted in the apartments of the Open Russia opposition movement employees were part of the money laundering investigation of the Yukos company, Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said on Tuesday.

"Considering the international lawsuits initiated by Hulley Enterprises Limited, Yukos Universal Limited and Veteran Petroleum Limited on behalf of foreign companies to forcibly recover over $50 billion from the Russian Federation, the investigation is also checking information provided by plaintiffs to international and foreign courts with regard to the legality and legitimacy of the acquisition of Yukos shares and their subsequent use," the spokesman said.

The Investigative Committee’s Main Investigation Department is investigating a criminal case against Yukos former key shareholders and managers into the theft of oil from the company’s oil producing subsidiaries and its sale, as well as into the legalization of funds obtained from selling what had been stolen. The investigation is also underway against persons put on a wanted list, the Investigative Committee spokesman said.

"For the purposes of checking information on the legalization of funds in the Russian Federation obtained from the legalization of earlier stolen property, the Investigative Committee is making searches today together with the Interior Ministry of Russia in the houses and at the workplaces of individual entrepreneurs and other persons financed from abroad from the accounts of organizations that were controlled in the past and are possibly controlled at present by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Leonid Nevzlin and other participants in the group headed by them," Markin said.

The coordinator of the Open Russia project, Maria Baronova, told TASS the searches began early on Tuesday, and targeted both the staff and people who are linked with them.

"Starting from 6:40 a.m. (3:40 GMT) the searches began in Moscow and St. Petersburg in a number of apartments linked to the supporters of the Open Russia. At the moment, the number of people whose homes were searched has increased," Baronova said.

After the investigators failed to get into the apartment of the Open Russia’s video production department head, who is currently outside Russia, they searched the neighboring flats.

"There were many such random people in St. Petersburg and Moscow," she said, adding that some 11 persons were linked to the Open Russia or Khodorkovsky, and these people also have relatives and acquaintances.

The Open Russia movement was founded by former Yukos head Khodorkovsky in 2014. The organization says on its website its goals are to unite Russian citizens seeking a state government by the rule of law, with fair elections and the promotion of European values.

The former head of oil giant Yukos, 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 prison in December 2013. Lebedev was released in early 2014.

Media reports said the ex-Yukos head wrote in his pardon request that he pledged not to go into politics.

Vladimir Putin in late December 2014 also noted that Khodorkovsky asked to pardon him, at least he sent a corresponding paper, and "it seemed that he did not intend to engage in politics.” 

The president later said Khodorkovsky still had the right to be engaged in politics.

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