MOSCOW, March 25. /TASS/. The term of the preliminary probe into the main Yukos case opened in March 2003 has been extended until June, a source close to the investigation told TASS on Friday.
"The term of the preliminary investigation into the so-called main Yukos case has been extended until June 2. Over this time, the investigation plans to find proof that Yukos shareholders illegally acquired the company’s shares," the source told TASS.
The so-called main Yukos case was opened in March 2003 into material damage done to the state.
Russia’s Investigative Committee announced in December last year that its Main Investigative Department was investigating a criminal case against former core shareholders and heads of Yukos, once Russia’s largest oil company, into the theft and sale of oil from Yukos’ subsidiaries, as well as into the legalization of money obtained from the sale of what had been stolen.
Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in the wake of international judicial proceedings instituted on behalf of foreign companies Hulley Enterprises Limited, Yukos Universal Limited and Veteran Petroleum Limited to recover over $50 billion from Russia that the investigators were also checking information provided by plaintiffs to international and foreign courts as to the legality and legitimacy of the acquisition of Yukos shares by these entities and their subsequent use.
In July 2014, 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.
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.
According to the Russian Investigative Committee official spokesman Vladimir Markin, the investigation has evidence that Yukos shares were stolen by Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The Yukos oil company was privatized in 1995 with violations of competition and antimonopoly laws, he told TASS.
"According to investigation’s data, privatization of Yukos in 1995 was implemented with violations of competition and antimonopoly legislation," he said.
Khodorkovsky team presented ZAO Laguna and ZAO Reagent companies actually owned by Khodorkovsky for participation in the investment tender and the loans-for-shares auction at that time, disguising them as independent legal entities, Markin said. Laguna won the tender and the auction but the payment for shares was made at the expense of funds of the joint stock Menatep bank, whose main source was money of clients and depositors. "Laguna did not have its own funds. Money paid for shares was not returned to Menatep and the bank was driven into bankruptcy several years later. Hence shares were obtained by Khodorkovsky without payment and using others’ funds, that is, they were actually stolen," he said.
"At that, Khodorkovsky, having purchased Yukos shares at an understated price, promised by deceit to contribute its investments amounting to $350 mln into development of the oil company, which he did not actually implement later," spokesperson of the Investigative Committee added.
"We cannot speak about all the evidences gathered by the investigation but they are already sufficient to conclude that Khodorkovsky, having received [Yukos] shares from the government without making investments, that is, actually stealing them, is currently attempting to deceive the government once again by recovering $50 bln more from it," Markin said.